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Defiance - Unframed 17 x 22

Artist: Andy Everson

My first ancestor, ‘Na̱mukustolis, came to earth wearing the feathered garment of the Great Blue Heron. Upon arriving, he took off his bird skins to reveal his inner human form. Later, when ‘Na̱mukustolis met the great Ḵ̓aniḵilakw, the two had an epic battle—transforming each other into ducks and kingfishers and mountains. Knowing that he would like to help out his people into the future, ‘Na̱mukustolis ultimately chose to become the river Gwa’ni. Unlike rocks that would crumble and wood that would rot, the river would continue to flow and provide salmon for the ‘Na̱mg̱is people. In this way, ‘Na̱mukustolis was defiant. He chose to do what was best for his people—he literally laid down for them for all of eternity.

Following the lead of our ancestors, our people have continued to remain defiant. We have had everything thrown at us and we have persevered. We’ve dealt with disease, the Indian Act, relocation, reservations, the potlatch ban, residential schools, the “Sixties scoop”, intergenerational abuse and widespread addiction. They have harmed all of us, but we have remained defiant. In response, our culture and way of life has changed and adapted. We have transformed which in itself is an act of defiance.

We now live in an age where we must balance modern life with traditional teachings. An age where we must choose between the trappings of a capitalist society and of one steeped in giving and sharing. An age where we’re compelled to miss work in order to potlatch. An age where we drive cars and use petroleum-based products and feel compelled to say “NO!” to pipelines. An age where the only salmon some of us see is in the grocery store…and it’s farmed. If it is one thing that our ancestors taught us, it was to remain defiant: to use our voice when there is injustice; to use our actions when they are sorely needed; and to use our hearts, minds and consciousness in order to make the important decisions.

These decisions we face are not easy ones. Sometimes it’s just plain easier to “Netflix and chill” than to be defiant and stand up for what you believe. In this day and age—as much as ever—we need to be the people our ancestors would want us to be.

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