Artist Talk Transcript
To Talk With Others- Artist talk – Yukon Arts Center – December 9, 2019
Doug Smarch Jr.
Special guest elder Shirley Adamson
Recording begins part way thru Valerie Salez's intro to project....
Valerie Salez: ........push through with First Nations resistance and a lot more allieship. Now there are a lot more ... Hi, Shirley. Welcome.
Shirley Adamson: Hi...... [inaudible 00:00:10]
Valerie Salez: Watching what's going on now, along the Pacific Northwest, regarding pipeline consultation and forceful crossings onto unceaded territories, brought me back to that document, those minutes of the meeting from 1977. Then Justin Trudeau got elected, and I knew it was time work with the document. There was a lot more funding within the arts communites and the Canada Council for the Arts. Bigger funding with the term reconciliation underlining everything. So it made sense to apply for funding for a large scale, territory wide project that would provide enough funds to invite Yukon FN artists to respond to the document. To engage communities talking about the time of that meeting in 1977, what happened subsequently and what things look like now.
Valerie Salez: I had no idea if I or the project would be met with resistance, with noes, with, "Who are you to do this?" as I am non-First Nations. But quite the opposite happened. I had a lot of relationships with First Nations governments, cultural centres and personal relationships with FN people all over the territory. When I started to talk about the project and present the document, it just clicked for everyone. "Oh, yeah, that's interesting. That's something I'd like to take a look at and have a discussion about." So it was kind of to talk with others. To kind of continue this discussion, endless talking, which is very exhausting. But it seems to be the only way towards transformation.
Valerie Salez: That's kind of where it came from and that's all I want to say. This group of artists here, Doug, I know we've know each other since our 20s and we were just in Teslin scrambling around the beach, beachcombing. That's kind of how that started. He was developing as an artist. I didn't even know I was an artist back then. I think Doug was someone who saw that in me a long time ago.
Valerie Salez: Joseph I met in my 30s and you were in your 20s and kicking around the streets of Downtown Whitehorse saying, "Come to the corner. I'm doing a performance." I was like, "Who's this guy?" Yeah, and then just with my partner at the time and Joseph we just started talking more and collaborating and doing different things. A lot of talks, a lot of talking with me and Joseph. We go down good rabbit holes and then have to dig ourselves back out.
Valerie Salez: Ken's work I've always known about growing up here. He was just this guy who made these amazing carvings and sculptures, but I never met him. He actually approached the gallery when he heard of this new chapter funding and was curious. Then when he heard what it was about, he just sort of said, "I'd love to be involved." I was like, "Wow, okay, great." We had one quick talk and it was very obvious. I feel very excited that Ken has been here. I've learned a lot from you. Really, really happy that Ken's part of this.
Valerie Salez: Lianne, feel like we should have known each other growing up here but we didn't, and we actually met in Victoria. She was going to the University of Victoria and I also collaborate with a different group of First Nations women which is interesting down in Victoria because it's people from that territory, but also because of it being UVic you have Mohawk people, Mi'kmaq people, people from the Yukon.
Valerie Salez: So within that group of women, we met on a beach at my friend's performance and we talked about this quickly, the Yukon. she said, "Well, I have this education kind of exactly in this arena, in politics. But I also am making artwork to do with text and graphics." I saw some of her work and it just seemed like, yeah, perfect. Lianne's been amazing to have here because I think you brought a whole level of information that I had no idea about. That's all I have to say, talk right now. I don't think this thing's working.
Speaker 3: Yep, it is.
Speaker 4: Just speak right into it but, yeah.
Valerie Salez: Who wants to go first? I guess you do have to talk really close.
Doug Smarch Jr: Doug Smarch. My piece exists around the corner here. They're big books. The pop-up books came into mind, then I thought, "I don't know how I'm going to do this." I got help from a paper, I call her a paper technician. I wanted to create a mechanism of something that just pops up, but it just reminded me of school, like when we first discovered books and telling a story a different way. Telling a story of what happened with a lot of people. I wanted to try to make it a little more real.
Doug Smarch Jr: One part of the document, when I was speaking to Adeline, and she told me about vulnerability, told me that our people aren't ready. This is basically going to be the last little bit. You know when you got a string hanging, you got a couple little twines and everything's just holding on. I wanted to recreate that. I was thinking about my mother. When my mother went to school, and she talked about how these memories were there. She was physically in a place that wasn't good for her, but there's these memories were trapped in there.
Doug Smarch Jr: I wanted to create a little bit of a view of what that time was. I think if I sat in the middle of that, it's almost like those books are kind of, a little bit of my memories, too. My memories swirling around. But the kids' bodies were locked away. I only realized this view was when I spoke to an Amish, an Amish person. I have him right on video. He's talking about how when he came out of the Amish, he said, in his words, he said, "I didn't know how free I was until I left the Amish. How free I am in Jesus Christ when I left the Amish." Those are his words.
Doug Smarch Jr: He said, "My body left but," he says, "My mind was still there." When I looked at these pieces, I thought about the mind being there, but the body being out just a struggle, a struggle and the bravery. I even went to, when these books were set up, I even went to sleep and I thought, "Gosh, is this too much? Did I, was it a good thing that I put some of these little references in there?"
Doug Smarch Jr: There's a picture of the old Choutla school site there. You see all these black things. I was thinking, is that, I don't want to say, "Those, oh, yeah, those are the native people," But those are just the memories that had to come out. Like I stood there and I was speaking, I still have difficulty with your name. Sorry.
Lianne Charlie: Me? Yeah, me or Ken?
Doug Smarch Jr: No.
Valerie Salez: Lianne.
Doug Smarch Jr: I was talking about my mother and talking about sometimes my mother apologized to me and I'm thinking, "Quit apologizing. I understand now." But just a short final word, what our people were when they went in, it couldn't be locked up. It may have been hell, but as soon as it was given room, it popped back out again. The pop, the pop-up, came out again. Now it's just a small statement that defends itself. It fights for itself on its own. It's more indestructible than we even thought.
Doug Smarch Jr: When I heard, I heard this word over and over, "Go back to the land. Go back to the land." I thought, what does the land going to do? But if you go out there and you do a simple thing as catch a fish, hunt a gopher, you have to go through all these things to prepare that. That's the freedom. That's what that's about. There's a little bit of the, you know when you mix coffee, you pour the milk in there and you got these little swirls and all of a sudden it becomes what it's supposed to be.
Doug Smarch Jr: So that's, but now we have more. We have this other, we have our foot in this world. They have, you'll see shadows. Those shadows are those things that are just becoming these shadows that are falling away and this picture of a businessman in there. It's even this part of my life, I went into this other world a little more. But when I came back to my own life, it just became more colorful.
Valerie Salez: Thanks, Doug. We're going to probably get up also and go and look at the pieces directly, so you can talk about your work here or over there or say anything yo want to say. There's your sister.
Lianne Charlie: Hi, Kaitlyn.
Valerie Salez: The one who helped build the moose.
Speaker 4: Yes.
Valerie Salez: Instrumental person.
Lianne Charlie: I was really relieved last night when we were told that we weren't going to do the talks, because I didn't want to cry in front of anybody.
Ken Anderson: Yeah, me, too.
Lianne Charlie: Yeah. I told myself, okay, go home, cry, get it out of your system so that when you have to finally talk to everybody you won't cry. But it didn't happen. My name's Lianne Charlie. I'm Wolf Clan, Tage Cho Hudan river people. My grandmother is [Lida Jimmy 00:11:11] from Little Salmon River. My grandfather was known as Big Salmon Charlie from Big Salmon Village. My dad is Peter Charlie. He passed away here in town in 1988. Kaitlyn and I were raised by my mom, Lana Larson who was Lana Charlie in the '80s. She's a second generation Canadian of Danish and Icelandic ancestry.
Lianne Charlie: Kaitlyn and I were born here, but we grew up on unceded Algonquin Territory in Victoria, BC. Then both just came back recently. I've been here for about two-and-a-half years now. Yeah, seen Valerie in Victoria and then running into each other at one of the first big art community events here in town. Probably within a few months of me even moving back. He's already talking about [inaudible 00:12:33] and she secretly gave me a copy. "Check these out, it's really wild." It was incredible. For about as long as I've been here, I've been in possession of these minutes.
Lianne Charlie: Then so much has sort of happened in the last two years. I come here from the first half of my doing a PhD at the University of Hawaii in the illegally occupied Hawaiian Kingdom, City of Honolulu, in an Indigenous Politics program. In Hawaii, studying as much as I can about the Yukon, so I feel like I've read everything that exists online. It was time for me to come home and, I'm sorry, being here in this place and talking to people and reconnecting with my family.
Lianne Charlie: It's just neat, thinking about what you were saying last night, Shirley, about your connection to these minutes and that you would've been at this meeting had you not chosen to be with your family. That really struck a cord with me, because I recently had, I have a 16-month-old. It's in the last four months, making the moose in particular, and the rest of, which is one of my pieces, our pieces. One of the things that has stood out to me is that while making that, I was spending a lot of time away from my family. I was just, yeah, it's interesting how that happens. How we get pulled in different directions and asked to do different kinds of work that either brings us closer to ... We built a community around that moose, I think. A community that my partner and my family and my baby were part of.
Lianne Charlie: But sometimes it meant not putting him to bed at night, which I'd been doing for 12 months. Those were really major moments as a mother that happened around and because of that moose. There was so many moments like that. Sitting with a couple of friends of ours, [Liven McIntyre 00:14:48] doing collage with the UFA, the Umbrella Final Agreement, that's the framework that guides Modern Treaty in the Yukon. It's created with so many hopes and dreams and desires around it by our leaders at the table, and elders, and people guiding them before that.
Lianne Charlie: Here we are sitting late at night, tearing up pink paper, talking about drug overdoses, and violence, and poverty, and other hopes and dreams that just to make it through the day. Think lots of really real and scary and sometimes hopeful things around indigenous life today under that Modern Treaty. I think these are the things that I was sort of hoping for when it came to thinking about what I wanted to do to contribute to this project, and how I wanted to re-ask some really hard questions. Especially as a really young person who's grown up away, disconnected from the culture for a variety of reasons, making this journey of reconnection back with a whole bunch of schooling. Then coming here and realizing that I am part of a generation that's going to inherit these things like Macklin's Self-Government Agreements that's work of all our people that came before us.
Lianne Charlie: Part of some undercurrents, I think, my collection is this questions around burden of responsibility that I'm feeling. I want to know these documents. We need each other to know these documents until we see that people who created them, build them. But I teach at the college, as well, Indigenous Governance degree program. I give the students the UFA and I'm like, "Tell me about this." The things they point out are, "It's hard to read. I don't understand it. We need lawyers to help us figure out what this means. I don't get it. I'm bored. I didn't make it through it." All these things.
Lianne Charlie: I realized just like last night watching people go up to the moose and go closer. You're reading things that are deep in this document that are right there in front of your face and you get a sense of what's there, and it raises other questions about, well, why does it say it like that? What does that mean? What are we supposed to do with that? How does that implicate me? What are my responsibilities that stem from this? What am I going to do now that I know this?
Lianne Charlie: A major question I had when I went through the [inaudible 00:18:05] the what do we do about, how do we work with, alongside or without the cede, release and surrender clause, which is the only full sheet of paper on the moose around the arrows. It's called the Certainty Clause in the document. It's on page 15 of almost 300-page document. It's there because Canada needs it to be there in order to determine certainty about who owns what. It's kind of the fundamental, the impetus behind land lease.
Lianne Charlie: They need, there's too many questions around what Aboriginal title means. Land claims as a process comes in to sort of be like, okay, we recognize that those questions exist, we recognize that Aboriginal title exists, we will mark this moment without acknowledgment, and we will renegotiate with you, who owns what, where your rights are in danger, and where they don't, where the lines are drawn, where you have power and where you don't. We'll get that all out in paper, in writing and we'll all sign it.
Lianne Charlie: In order to do that, in order to renegotiate, they have to extinguish Aboriginal title over everything first, sort of create a blank slate, build on top together, a new way of being in relationship with each other. A major question for me then is how is it that we are to practice our ancestral way of being with our land and water and each other when we have to, in the State's eye, surrender the majority of our territory to them, to the Queen actually when you read that text?
Lianne Charlie: By asking that question in the form of the big pink moose, I was hoping that maybe it would bring more people around, gather around and take that on collectively, to recognize that we are inheriting the result of this cede, release and surrender clause.
Lianne Charlie: Another major theme, I think, across my work is the sort of overwhelmingness of paper. The fact that these minutes came to us on paper and that my looking around at how sort of we're navigating self-government but there's lots of paper involved. A lot of our laws are now on paper, our politics on paper, our rules and regulations are on paper. We have to figure out how to make a decision, we usually turn to paper.
Lianne Charlie: I think for our ancestors, that was not the case. We would turn to the land, the land was very much integral to our decision-making processes. Our governance, it determined our governance structures. It was our government structure. There's a question here about where's the land in all of this? At the forefront here is a whole bunch of paper. We have the moose made out of paper, we have its hide on the copper frame made out of paper.
Lianne Charlie: Then I took this idea, well, we would've made things for ourselves out of the moose hide; clothing, shoes, moccasins, mukluks, gun straps, bow and arrow, holsters, the whole thing. One particular piece over there that's very dear to me is the baby belt. Because we would've made baby belts, things to carry the next generation with moosehide.
Lianne Charlie: This past summer as a family we took it upon ourselves to try and revitalize a practice, an ancestral practice of putting the placenta on the land, back out on the land. Before you would just hang the placenta in a tree where you gave birth which was likely out on the land. I birthed Luca in the hospital and they gave me the placenta and then I, at the time, didn't know what I was supposed to do. But over the year with the help of my family, we figured it out.
Lianne Charlie: We went out Little Salmon Lake with the help of my aunties and cousins and witnessed by extended family, we took the placenta out to a tree just at the top of Little Salmon River. We found the right tree. Me and my partner and Luca walked out to it, and we hung the placenta there. It was because of this project that I had a whole bunch of land claims maps printed so hopefully to work with and they're also, they're in the hide. The hide is made of the land claims maps.
Lianne Charlie: But I was sitting there after sort of writing the experience of the summer, doing the placenta ceremony, and I was like, oh, my goodness. I wonder how the land was categorized where we put the placenta. I pulled out the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nations land claims map. I found Little Salmon Lake, and I found Little Salmon River and I traced, it's really, really small on there and I traced along kind of guessed whereabouts on the river we were.
Lianne Charlie: On one side it was purple, this little tract of land, is purple. You look at the legend, that means it's Category B land, which means that Little Salmon/Carmacks has jurisdiction and rights to the surface, and the Crown, or the State, has mineral rights, so subsurface. On the other side is Category A land, which means that we have the surface rights and the subsurface rights. We just happened to put Luca's placenta on the Category B land, which then means that the State has the mineral rights.
Lianne Charlie: When I learned this in that moment I was shocked and just immediately confronted with the complexities of life, indigenous life under Modern Treaty. What that meant to do in ancestral practice in a way that reclaims our way of being, our intentions being here forever in a way that mirrors how our ancestors moved across our land and alongside the water. Here is this map that says that the State could literally undermine that.
Lianne Charlie: The piece focuses on that spot. Focuses on the map, uses the map, to create this thing that we would literally use to carry our young, and raises this question about paper is actually going to be strong enough to do that, to protect that. It raises questions a few times standing around that piece about whether or not I think that baby belt could actually hold Luca, if I could use it to hold Luca. I don't think the paper would hold up. I think that's something that I'm going to have to sit with for a little bit. And maybe this collection is asking us, is the paper going to be good enough? [foreign language 00:26:19]
Valerie Salez: [foreign language 00:26:19]
Ken Anderson: My name is Ken Anderson, member of the Teslin Tlingit Council, member of the Kookhittaan Clan. My Tlingit name is [foreign language 00:26:35] and it means to think about something for a long time and then talk about it. Anyways, we had a little bit of time to think about the show and there was a lot of thought, especially if you get a chance I would say take one of those documents and read it because I think it's a, it really is a, it's kind of, when you started reading it, your mind kind of expands in many different directions and we had some pretty good conversations. We got together a few times and talked. I think somebody talked about a rabbit hole earlier and there was a bit of that, too. But it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the whole process of working with all these different artists. It was, very grateful to have had the opportunity to do that.
Ken Anderson: When I went through that document, I picked out a couple of things that sort of were relevant to me. One thing that Pierre Trudeau said in the document was, when he was talking about the pipeline, he said, "I wouldn't want that in my backyard." That's what that piece over there with the fence is about. It's sort of a reference to changing times, as well. You'll look at it and you'll see it in a certain way, and you'll see the white picket fence which is what, I guess, what a lot of people have come to believe is what they want. It's not what everybody wants, nor is the pipeline.
Ken Anderson: Then there's kind of a copper piece on the pipe and that sort of represents, it's meant to represent the culture, the traditional, the older culture. Lianne mentioned surface rights and subsurface rights and all this stuff. And really the copper is from the earth, so that's what that's meant to represent, as well. We did use stuff from the land and the subsurface and things like that, relevant.
Ken Anderson: Then the size of the piece was meant to kind of reflect the relationship that they would've had going forward with land claims, because at one time the only people that were here were the First Nations people. People say they didn't have a concept of ownership of the land. And then other people came and said that we own the land and we're going to give you this little piece back.
Ken Anderson: If you look at the piece in relationship to the gallery , it's meant to represent that little piece of land that we got back, kind of thing. I remember studying at university and there was a concept that I didn't understand at the time. One of the leaders from a different nation said, "Once you begin to negotiate, you've already lost." That always stuck with me, and that's something that you're playing something by somebody else's rules.
Ken Anderson: That's what was interesting in that document to me was that there was kind of, there was an arm's length approach to people who had seen this type of thing before with the gold rush and different things like that. So they had the ability to say, "Oh, we need some time. We're not ready for this, and maybe we're not even going to do this."
Ken Anderson: I think that very grateful for that, that they took the time to not rush into that. The other part of that, too, with that one piece as the copper, when things go too far and people are always going back to the culture to try and find it, sort of like a Band-Aid. I think you got to be with it all the time. You can't just go back to it when you're in trouble. That's what that piece is about.
Ken Anderson: Then the other piece there, there's I call it "The Mosquito Becomes Me." That's sort of a cautionary tale. When I was a kid, my grandmother used to tell me stories all the time but she never told me what they meant. She'd just tell me the story. I had to try and figure that out. Maybe a year later or six months later, she'd tell me the same story again and I had to try and figure out what that meant. Some of those stories I still haven't figured them out but I'm still learning from them.
Ken Anderson: That piece is about on the coast they have some different stories about the cannibal man and things like that. In that story, when they finally catch the cannibal man and they burn him up, the smoke and the ashes turn into the mosquito, so now you still have a problem. But just more of a problem, maybe it's not quite as damaging of a problem, but that's what it's about.
Ken Anderson: I think in this day and age with all the new technologies and different people coming, we all develop these new technologies and things like that, hence, "The Mosquito Becomes Me." The piece is interactive. It's meant for you to stand behind it and become the mosquito. I try to be aware of all the situations, you know, that can't, I think it mentions in that document, too, that you can't have your cake and eat it, too. Very difficult to do that.
Ken Anderson: I think it's a lot to ask of anybody to stay a certain way. Culture is an ever evolving thing. I mean, when you read that document, it kind of expands and expands. You could go round and round. I made a choice to do those two pieces and was very honored to be a part of this show. I want to thank you all for coming out to talk, as well. [foreign languaga 00:32:59]
Valerie Salez: [foreign language 00:33:00]
Lianne Charlie: [foreign language 00:33:00]
Joseph Tisiga: I think like everybody I got a lot to say about all my work but I'm not going to go into it all. Maybe we can have one-on-one conversations afterward. I do want to start off by saying, too, that I really appreciate having the opportunity to do this show with these people. It is really great and we've all had, I have relationships with everybody in different respects over the years. I met Ken when I was just a little kid. He took me rock climbing. Our mom's work up at the hospital together, so that's pretty cool. Now we're doing shows together, boy. Full circle.
Joseph Tisiga: I think one of the things that stood out to me in the document right away was how, I guess, paternalistic and demeaning Trudeau was. I thought this is a really interesting side of a political issue that isn't really politics at all. It kind of keeps going back to this idea about business and you're either serious or your not. "We're not going to wait seven years for this to happen," blah, blah.
Joseph Tisiga: I thought, that's a really funny attitude to come into this thing with because it's like the furthest thing from business. It's like I'm in awe of the people that could sit at a table very recently after, and maybe during the fact that their family members may have been taken into residential schools and relocated to community settlements. They were dealing very directly with some very incredible obstacles in their life. They just sat at the table and really diplomatically had this conversation about business with this guy. It's like, this is not about business. It's not about business for them, right?
Joseph Tisiga: I always get a little bit kind of gun-shy with these things, too, so you got to bear with me. I'm happy you cried because I was there. Yeah, so the idea that we're sitting down talking about business and that's kind of what he just keeps going back to and back to. I thought, this is, somehow I want to try to reflect on this, but I'm not really too sure how.
Joseph Tisiga: I started the work thinking about how I can reflect on the people that were sitting at the table, and the resiliency and the thoughtfulness that these people came with. I had the best intention of going down that road, but the longer I worked on this stuff, more anxiety and angst and frustration came out and it wound up in the work.
Joseph Tisiga: I went very far into that and that anger, and then had to pull back and edit and go back into it again. It was this really weird kind of back and forth for the duration of thinking about it and then the physical making of all the stuff. So some of the things that I think remained pretty central or central interests to me were making a work that talked ideally to you. Because that's something that is really absent in the conversation.
Joseph Tisiga: There are really adults talking about a decision that would happen in and of their time, without really a whole lot of allusion, except there were sort of subtle allusions by the First Nation representatives about future and about preparing their community and all of that stuff. But there's very little consideration of what youth or what future would mean for Trudeau, or for the political side.
Joseph Tisiga: I thought it would be important to kind of center this idea of youth in the work. It was right away I had a bunch of ideas about how I would try to approach that. Some of which happened, some didn't. The other thing that I thought would be important in terms of speaking to youth and also through the aesthetics, I didn't want something that would be super polished and too highfalutin. Maybe at times kind of my paintings, my work, may become a bit highfalutin. But aesthetically, I just wanted it to be like right there on the surface, very direct, kind of angsty, a bit frustrated, incomplete, because it's a process. All of this things I think are, this whole conversation is about process.
Joseph Tisiga: Aesthetically, that became really important to me. And using photo transfers, as well, and techniques or sort of approaches that I don't ever really use to get it an aesthetic that is sort of all over something that, yeah, is just sort of abrasive maybe, and not make it too easy for people. That was another part of, I guess, my thinking or my approach coming into all of the work was a quality of obstacle or interference.
Joseph Tisiga: For instance, with the box the starting point for the box was actually a glory hole, something I've been thinking about for a long time. If you're not familiar with what a glory hole is, it's a space for anonymous sex, essentially. You would put your genitals into the hole, and there'd be somebody on the other side to participate.
Lianne Charlie: I thought it was for glassblowing, man.
Joseph Tisiga: I know. It's also for that. There's a lot of terminology around glory holes, which I think is really funny. There's also a mining term that uses glory hole. There is a glassblowing term, a place where you're putting your glass in, that's also a glory hole. We could talk more about that later. I've been thinking about this image for a really long time of this box, this glory hole which is covered in this landscape. There's, to me there's a lot of connotation to that. This sort of, I'm not going to go into everything, but the anonymous quality of this sex base, and looking at these politicians and businessmen and essentially these interests that just go in and penetrate and extract from everything. There's no intimacy, there's no familiarity with the space or the histories or the connection. It's really just about extractive interactions, very temporary.
Joseph Tisiga: I was thinking about that and then the inside of the room was really elusive to me. I couldn't see exactly what was on the inside of the room for the longest time. I thought maybe it would be something sculptural that when you looked in, you would have to, you would walk around the box and look through the holes to see the entirety of the sculpture.
Joseph Tisiga: Then I realized at some point that I'm more interested in people looking across the space and trying to read this text that circles around the room, so that you can't read it from any one side. You have to continuously keep walking around and around and shifting your perspective to observe the text, to really make the effort. So shifting your perspective requires a considerable amount of effort.
Joseph Tisiga: I thought this seems like kind of a relevant suggestion, or hope to come out of this process for me is shifting, constantly shifting perspective. Then there's the black light in there that also interferes with being able to read the text. But that also animates it and, I think, gives it life. The text itself is the first two paragraphs of the "Together Today For Our Children Tomorrow" document, which to me, I had just read while working on this project, I read a bunch of stuff.
Joseph Tisiga: I feel like I read so many things and just became so overwhelmed and just the words and the papers. I thought, this is incredible. The Indian Act, the white paper, the Final Umbrella Agreement, this document. All of these things I just thought, it's amazing that there's all this text and all this paper and no story. There's like zero metaphor. I thought that, to me is interesting. This is sort of a tangent.
Joseph Tisiga: But the metaphor is the absence of metaphor. You read all these things and they're describing a relationship with the people, but there's no story involved. This is insane. I thought that's funny that we're on the receiving end of that as First Nation or indigenous people expected to respond with a culture that has eliminated any story. Because we come from oral histories, which were entirely story until very recently. That to me is really interesting.
Joseph Tisiga: But the "Together Today For Our Children Tomorrow" document is very narrative. It's very symbolic, it's very metaphoric. In the writing, in the language that they use. It's important, it's an extremely important document. That's the text on the inside. I thought that was kind of a profound thing to come across through the process of this project, as well. I'm going to just keep it there. I think that's good.
Ken Anderson: Dropped the mic.
Valerie Salez: What time are we at?
Speaker 4: Right on time, fortunately, yeah.
Valerie Salez: Feel like, does anyone have any questions? I didn't say about the video, which I can just say really quickly. The video that I made and we're sitting at this table, that was a central part of the video. It's a simple thing, just like the document, handing it over to the artists and going do you want to respond and how do you want to respond? Go.
Valerie Salez: The table, I simply went to communities, to individuals, to organizations, to initiatives around the Yukon that I have a relationship with and just said, "Hey, I have this table. What for you, your community, your family is nonnegotiable? What should never be at the table again? It was a simple question. We had a discussion, we read the document.
Valerie Salez: Then they proposed where on the land this table should be and what they wanted to be doing at the table. They would, "How should I dress?" I said, "It's up to you, how you want to dress. If you want to be on the table, under the table. You want to jump your mountain bike over the table." That's what that video basically is. We'll see in the back with the table.
Valerie Salez: This is all worn out because Scott Price, who's the preparator, built this table to come apart. It was hell to lug around the land. I felt like I was the white person who was made to drag this to learn more lessons about the difficulty of everything. It was like a weird martyrship thing. Anyways, that's a whole other story. But I needed to do it, and I did it and had an amazing time in these spectacular places and worked with a drone operator. It was to kind of get this perspective to see how big these lands are.
Valerie Salez: Every place we made this film had a huge significance to the person in the film. It has to do with their nation and a connection. We got to see it from above, and then come down below. It's part of this macro, this huge macro, like really how big the land is. Almost from above, there's this simplicity, this beauty, this romanticism. But then we come down to this action on the table and all these layers of complexity in that simple action of a woman carving a mask. A Tlingit woman carving a Tlingit mask. Everything.
Valerie Salez: These boys who built the trails, the bike trails up on Montana Mountain flying over this table. That used to be an old caribou migration paths. Then wanting to do something and being challenged by their own elders to go, "Well, no that's, you're going to disturb them. We're waiting for the caribou to come back." It was about all these complex layers of what was happening at the table. But then we rise above it and kind of continue, merge into another landscape and across the territory. Anyways, that's the basis of that video. But I want to hand it over to any quick questions. Does anyone have any questions?
Joseph Tisiga: If we're on the money here, maybe we should give some people the option to go back to work.
Valerie Salez: Yeah, does anyone got to get up and leave?
Ken Anderson: Oh, you don't have to go back to work.
Joseph Tisiga: This isn't worth getting fired over. Don't lose your job.
Valerie Salez: There's some stew.
Joseph Tisiga: So it is.
Speaker 9: You're all so interesting. Where would we want to go?
Doug Smarch Jr: Huh?
Speaker 9: This stuff's so interesting, why-
Ken Anderson: Maybe they want to look at the work first
Joseph Tisiga: Yeah, yeah. [crosstalk 00:47:14]
Valerie Salez: Well, we kind of, yeah, I think, I know a lot of people looked at the work. Does anyone want to look at the work? I mean, what, questions? Or should we wrap up and eat stew?
Speaker 4: Do that.
Lianne Charlie: There's a question.
Speaker 10: Oh, only if it's, [crosstalk 00:47:24] just because, just like, look we have a room of experts on this document and I've only had one chance to read it. What I had in my mind at the very end of it on my first read was, did the women really not speak? Did the women speak and just did not get written down? Or, yeah, you've interacted with this document over and over. How do you read that gender [crosstalk 00:47:49]
Valerie Salez: Well, I think Shirley could definitely, you were at meetings during that time, and that is something that struck me as someone who, I mean, there's a lot of femaleness in this show also. What struck me is Adeline and Dorothy never speak. I don't think they were eliminated. I just think they were at the table to represent. But at that time in the '70s maybe, what do you think Shirley? Women-
Shirley Adamson: I think that at the time there were, all of these organizations you have to understand were nonprofit societies. You were either registered under societies act in order to give them standing. They pretty much operated as delivery mechanisms for program funding. That's why there's status represented by Willie and others under the Yukon Native Brotherhood. It'll take a long time to answer this. I'm going to try to give you the 35-second answer.
Shirley Adamson: But, and then Bill was representing the Yukon Association of Non-Status Indians, all of those that were of Indigenous ancestry but not registered for whatever reason. Dorothy, at the time, even though when I worked with her just prior to this meeting, she was with Yukon Association of Non-Status Indians. I believe she was appointed as the first, I was going to say intermediary. She's got an official title. She was actually there working for the government of Yukon. She was the link between First Nations and the government of Yukon, the government of the day. I think it was progressive conservative government, hence, Art Pearson being commissioner. So she didn't have a place to speak, she was there as an employee.
Shirley Adamson: The Yukon Indian Women's Association I think it was called at that time, was it really didn't have any recognition from anybody with the exception of the Yukon Association of Non-Status Indians, had always fought to have their voice at the table. Art Pearson was a senior official with the Federal Government and that was essentially how commissioners were appointed. Commissioners were appointed in the day.
Shirley Adamson: Yeah, it was, there's a lot of us that talk about the damage of the Indian Act, and you see that played out when you come from a matrilineal and matriarchal society, to have the Indian Act create chiefs and councils are primarily men, which really stifled their voice. But that didn't mean that we weren't there talking, it just means that we never got recorded in the minutes for whatever reason.
Valerie Salez: Yeah, and I think there's a great documentary. You can google it. It's called "Long Journey Home." It was made by NEDAA which was the Northern Native-
Shirley Adamson: Northern Native Broadcasting [crosstalk 00:51:08]
Valerie Salez: Yeah, broadcasting television station that used to exist here. Sort of, I think it changed into APTN now or-
Shirley Adamson: No, it still exists. There's a lot of documents there. I think that, I know this is not a question but I think needs to be said and I wanted to say it yesterday, is that the interpretation of the artists today is really interesting for somebody like me that sat at those meetings and sat at those negotiating tables. Because I was your age when I was there. The elders and the chiefs that were guiding us were not high school educated. They didn't carry any college or university degrees. They came out of the bush. They came out of the traplines. They came from their communities and they guided us.
Shirley Adamson: We had people that never created a land registry, yet people that never applied the concept of fee simple ownership. We had people that never applied the concept of taxation. We just knew that dramatic change lay ahead of us and we had to empower those that followed us. I look at it today and I think to myself, yeah, there's a lot of things I would've done different, but I think you know if we knew then what we know now, I wonder how much difference that would be?
Shirley Adamson: But one of the things that gets lost in the conversations is that we're in a very, very short timeframe. In the 1960s when Adeline and Bill and people like these were gathering in groups to talk about the advancement of Aboriginal people, that's against the backdrop of individuals who weren't allowed to vote in the municipal, territorial, and federal elections. That didn't happen until after women got the vote in Canada. So these are all the untold things that really informed what we did. I'm really thrilled this is happening. Yesterday I was really emotional, as well, because I had a chance to get in and have a little look. And listening to Ken describe his piece, I was telling you last night that I saw it in a whole different way.
Ken Anderson: Well, that's there, too, but-
Shirley Adamson: Yeah, because you know I came in and I saw the [inaudible 00:53:55] fence around the pipeline, but it's interpretation. I think, and that's what I wanted to try to capture to say that when I quoted Louie Riel who said, "You know, when we awake, it's going to be the artists that tell our stories." And that's what's happening. This is just the beginning. This is just the beginning. It's pretty phenomenal. I commend you all.
Valerie Salez: I'm so excited that you were here yesterday, Shirley, and took that on. And your thoughtful linking of this text, that text, your experience just added a whole layer. Just back to the woman thing and then I think we should wrap it up. I just wanted to say, if you can google NEDAA, "Long Journey Home." When you watch this three-part series you will see Daniel in Ottawa at a boardroom table with Trudeau, and he says, "We will no longer listen to forked tongues." There's amazing footage.
Valerie Salez: And the amazing thing is there's a lot of women speaking. Older women, Adeline, Shirley's in it. I mean, they're loud and clear just for some reason, yes, it is not in this document. I believe at times maybe at certain tables and at certain constructions, they weren't allowed to talk or weren't given a chance. But believe me, a lot of this was formed with women as the backbone.
Valerie Salez: I want to point out that, yes, men took over in the leadership roles, First Nations men. It's interesting that at this time, a lot of women are in leader positions. It's come back. A lot of women are in the leadership roles. A lot of the women that were here and people like Shirley, they're still doing the work. It hasn't stopped.
Valerie Salez: A lot of the males that were in the leadership positions, they're no longer with us or they've stepped back and are doing other things. The women have always been there, and they're still there, and they're stronger than ever, and they're voices are being heard, I think, even more than a lot of the male counterparts right now.
Doug Smarch Jr: Can I add something?
Valerie Salez: Sure.
Doug Smarch Jr: We just to add some light. When the women do come to the table, this is pretty serious. In my community they lead the community. Where you'll see them is when you go to the [inaudible 00:56:16] boxes. You'll see a bunch of nice old ladies sitting up there and quiet, and you think they're doing nothing but they're running the show.
Doug Smarch Jr: Back home, the women, this one man said, "You know, you need to take your place again, and lead us." One woman told me, she says, "Yeah," she said, "I can remember when they used to have those meetings. They used to go and go around to the oldest women around and say, saw what they think. They said, "Well, that's going to be good or they'll tell you, 'Well, it's not going to be good,' and they'll tell you why," and are nice about it. When I was, some pretty bad things were going to go down, you would see those old women come to the table and lay it on the line. I'm sorry but that [inaudible 00:57:09] on that movie, I was watching it because for some strange reason I was watching it last night.
Valerie Salez: Yeah, she's yelling at people. They're not quite, yeah. I think we should let people get up and stretch and look at the work. If you're around you can continue conversations with us and you can eat or go back to work. Keep up the good work and everyone's doing their best. Let's just say that.