Perspective: Indigenous Experience and Canada 150

June 30, 2017

Canada’s sesquicentennial has been marked with controversy regarding Canada’s history with Indigenous populations. Artist Jessie Buchanan is currently travelling with ART EXPRESS’D / ART EXPRIMÉ, a Canada 150 Signature Project. In her writing, Jessie acknowledges the troubled relations between Canada and First Nations in both the past and present context, by looking back on her own heritage and from the perspectives of her ancestors and current refugees.

As part of the project, Jessie has reflected on her own experiences, her ancestry, and her vision for Canada:

“Despite the challenges and deeply traumatic history that our people have endured (and are still enduring), it is important for us to not discount the other worldviews and perspectives of Canada. Specifically, many people have been fleeing countries of violence to find a home here in Canada, and have done so for generations.

But with that being said, it is very important to use this as an opportunity for engagement in Truth and Reconciliation (TRC). Our people have endured a history of colonial violence set forth by our early government. As we celebrate Canada, we have a responsibility to not only educate about Indigenous worldviews, but we should also use this as an opportunity to engage in helping to fulfill some of the TRC calls to action through art. Perhaps, art in its emphasis on symbolic expression, can provide a vehicle for cultural and individual renewal. Such renewal will not necessarily be tied to inherited traditional, symbolic forms (i.e., the medicine wheel) but could also be linked to the creation of new symbolic forms that include the artists’ culture as they experience it in a post-colonial world.

Our ancestors were okay with sharing the land. Respect is the cornerstone for many of our traditional beliefs.

With this being said, it is wonderful to see that the WAG also views this as an opportunity to educate, advocate, and celebrate our First Peoples and their traditional cultures. What better way to do that than through art.”