LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: VISUAL TREATIES
At a time of tremendous hope being expressed across the country we are pleased to present our Visual Treaties issue. After enduring a decade of the heavy weight of the Harper regime, the Trudeau government has sparked new dialogue that professes to support Nation to Nation relationship building between Indigenous Peoples and Canada.
Back in 2013 things were different. Just off the heals of the Idle No More Movement MUSKRAT Magazine co-presented a day long gathering entitled Nation to Nation Now! We were in the process of applying for Charitable Status under the category of building educational and cultural awareness. Our application was denied and attached was a report by the federal government claiming our magazine was too “political” and went against government policy. No -we did not support or lobby any political party- instead the report listed our Nation to Nation Now! event; an interview we did with J’net Cavannagh on the impact of the 60’s scoop; and even the bio we included along side our interview with Chief Arthur Manual as being too “political”. Clearly for the Harper regime, just being Indigenous and speaking about Indigenous rights went against government policy. The lawyer we hired to help with our application thought the argument by the government was in violation of our freedom of expression.
We refused to let the decision silence our content and instead thought of other ways to secure funding. Why did we need approval from the colonial government anyways? Shouldn’t we be seeking tax exemption for donations from our own Indigenous Governments?
The dark days of Harper have passed and the new government appears to want to listen, learn and act. They have already initiated a National Public Inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls; they have changed the name of The Department of Indian Affairs to “Indigenous” Affairs; and proclaim they are committed to implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recent Calls to Action as well as the Kelowna Accord. Perhaps their most significant claim is new Minister Carolyn Bennetts’ statement that calls for a, “Nation to Nation relationship… based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership”. Will that mean Indigenous Nations working towards self-government will have their laws and sovereignty recognized? Will Canada do away with the racist doctrines of discovery and share power and the wealth of the land as it was agreed upon in the treaties?
The Visual Treaties issue will profile and examine historical and contemporary visual representations that define Indigenous and non-Indigenous nation to nation relationships in Canada. We will explore the significance and practice of treaty making constructed and illustrated using wampum; the meanings and vanishings of Indigenous symbolism and iconography within Canadian emblems, crests, and architecture; and the (de) evolution of Indigenous symbolism, visibility, and presence within Parliament, sports mascots, and even airports. MUSKRAT will profile Indigenous artists such as Bonnie Devine and Kent Monkman who are on the frontline of defining visual cultural symbolism and increasing Indigenous presence while creating new symbols of relationship across Turtle Island.
The next few years should be a momentous time for Indigenous Peoples and all Canadians. I hope this issue will contribute to understanding, unearthing and evolving the symbolisms and significance of our sacred agreements as we walk together and re-define our relationship with one another.
– See more at: Carolyn Bennett.