Spring 2020 Interdisciplinary Artist Residency Final Event
Premiere, “Contested Homes: Migrant Liberation Movement Suite”
June 30, 2020, 7:30 pm
John Paul Patrick
Ojibwemowin Introduction: Boozhoo. Mino gigizheb. Gizhibaa Aanikwad nindizhinikoz. Maiingan dodem. Mashkizibing nindoongibaa.
Hello. It is a good day. My name is Whirling Cloud. I am wolf clan from Medicine River.
This is such a basic introduction to who I am and where I am from in Ojibwemowin. I’m still learning my native language. This is my mom’s culture. Not by the fault of anyone alive today but by centuries of oppression through colonization we almost lost our language, our culture and our land. Thanks to language revitalization projects we are seeing a revival of our language, culture and practice of subsistence living through food sovereignty. We are not out of the woods yet. The number of language speakers is a couple thousand with fluent speakers numbering in the hundreds.
I am Ojibwe from the Bad River Band Ojibwe on the south shore of Lake Superior. Notice the difference in the name of my home land: pre-colonization is Medicine River and post-colonization is Bad River. It was common practice for Christian and Catholic missionaries with the support of US Army agents to “demonize” our language, culture and land. The colonizer’s oppression hasn’t stopped. Today we see deep, wide levels of oppression through federal legislation in socio-economic policy, thus by design.
The Ojibwe have ancestral ties to the great lakes chain beginning east with the St. Lawrence Seaway, and west to Lake Superior. Inland there have been hundreds of Ojibwe settlements even as far as Rocky Boy Montana. My Band is located here in Wisconsin along with 7 other tribes. In Madison, Dane County and other locations the Ho Chunk Nation has its ancestral ties to land. If you have been here you might know about the mounds here connecting back for millenia to what some tribes would say is of a pre-clovis era.
Every culture is so rich and diverse that an entire village might not contain the vast knowledge of one’s own culture. Each village would network with each other supporting each other however needed. Most of the woodland tribes practiced seasonal migrations to areas where they would live off the land, only taking what they needed to survive.
Every so often on the seasonal migration path, tribes would come in contact with each other. Today, some literature with the mainstream perspective would have you believe those tribes would constantly be battling each other. Truth is, they would be trading goods for survival. On the occasion disagreements would arise for sure and there were many ways to settle disputes. Most woodland tribes played games to settle these disputes–games like lacrosse and moccasin games.
In Wisconsin or the upper midwest, over 120 tribes have an ancestral connection too. Since tribal nations were spread out so far from their central homeland each tribal member was seen as an ambassador, as a representative of their people and their culture. I’ve also had the opportunity to study ethno-biology and sociology. My takeaway understanding was that a healthy ecosystem is diverse, just as a healthy society is diverse. These points I will come back to.
During pre-colonization, most would live everyday in ceremony, as life was considered to be a gift and that all life was considered to be sacred. Walking in a sacred manner was the daily moment to moment. This story is always so much deeper than can be expressed in any book. Over thousands of years the use of drums, rattles, songs, dance, regalia story telling, interpretations, perspectives on life experience made for very deep, rich cultures. To the Ojibwe, the first sound of life is the drum beat, the heart, the life of the people.
Pre-Covid, I attended a community dinner here in Madison where I had the opportunity to meet Peggy Choy. Our meeting happened organically with no planning or scheduling. The timing was just right. We were introduced by a mutual friend who knew we were both active with many things, to name a few, cultural studies, arts, music, dance, activism, healing, learning, growing, living, loving and so on. What I love about these things is they are what help us to stay strong and healthy in a good way where no one is hurt. When we share these universal expressions of culture, the diversity of what is shared supports our own health and well being.
After much conversation, Peggy began to share with me this Artivism project and the activism of Mario Luna Romero and Anahí Ochoa of the Yaqui Nation. We began to formulate a plan to visit my homeland of Medicine River.
The timing of this visit couldn’t have been at a better time. Our tribe has been very busy battling resource extractive industry wanting to put in what would have been the world’s largest open pit mine on top of the headwaters to our homeland. We have been fighting off oil pipeline companies using our land over manipulated agreements and blatantly continuing to violate with no agreement; paper industry logging our trees to be sold and used elsewhere. A time when revitalizing our language, culture and expanding food sovereignty is most important to ensure our survival.
Deep conversations of exercising sovereignty as a nation and as an individual began to occur along with deep conversations of decolonizing our minds, hearts and our tribe. We all have a choice to do these things. This is needed now more than ever. The support in solidarity we can all give each other can impact generations to come. We understand this together and now you all are part of this awareness light.
Here we are still in the time of Covid-19. Meeting via technology, which in some ways serves a purpose. I want to express that no matter where we are we are still ourselves and we are representatives of ourselves. There is a movement you are all part of with this work you are all doing. We are all students, teachers and ambassadors learning, sharing, expressing, growing and breaking down social barriers restricting diversity.
There is a movement revival of universal cultural teaching through traditional and contemporary arts. Even though we all come from diverse backgrounds we come together as ambassadors with a universal message. As ambassadors of this message and the movement we represent as individuals and as a group to express when and how we choose. Since any time you choose to express yourself in these ways you are supporting the growth of healing within yourselves and each other thus supporting a healthy society. This is so very important!
Miigwech! Thank you!
John Patrick (Instagram: @wajepii_productions)