Updated: Apr 29, 2022
By Kaikaikons (Johnny Hawk)
Filmmaker Michelle Latimer is photographed in Toronto, on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
The Winter Solstice customarily introduces the time of year where Anishinaabe have always spent the winter isolated in our lodges sharing, learning and self reflecting on our Aatisokaanak (sacred stories and knowledge, family histories and tribal connections) where it is very fitting that this year’s Solstice began by lighting our collective sacred fire of storytelling which has focussed on one prominent storyteller in the Indigenous Filmmaking community who has engaged with the Spirit of the “Trickster.”
The concept and word “Trickster” coined by Eurocentric anthropologist’s minimizes many Indigenous People’s knowledge and interconnection with a very real ancestral entity which is also not the same Ancestor being for all Peoples. The use of this term creates a vague pan-Indian archetype that opens up one of our most sacred institutions for misappropriation that has been also assimilated by separating spiritual and physical realities of limiting our Aatisokaanak as “myth” and folklore.
For Anishinaabe our Grandfather Nanabozho, the fourth and youngest son of Winona and the West-wind who at times loved to play tricks has also brought the Anishinaabemany gifts that has made us our own distinct People. Many of our communities have their own stories of Grandfather which shows He is without an identity crisis and is more than a character of fiction and where even in our stories a key element is to know where the stories themselves come from.
As the storytelling season began where many have been self isolating in our lodges gathered around the virtual community fire, a CBC investigative piece published on Dec 17 shined a light on acclaimed film director Michelle Latimer. Latimer lauded for two high-profile Indigenous productions this year which includes CBC’s television series Trickster and the documentary Inconvenient Indian has been called out for her long-standing claim of Indigenous identity.
There are many articles and ramblings all over social media on this but what I am sharing here in the spirit of Nanaboozho is to hold a mirror up on the People rather than the “trickster figure” and to poke at the phenomenon of cancel culture and political correctness that has consumed our circles which can most times creates an unbalance as we pursue accountability.
Contrary Lives Don’t Matter
Phillip Meshekey a Kanienkeha:ka/Anishinaabe, Father, Writer, Speaker, Artist, Poet from Waganakasing Odawa in Northern Michigan who lives in Northern California has had experiences where his art was misappropriated by one of Latimer’s productions.
Left to Right: Phillip Meshekey and John Trudell at one of many performances where they shared a stage
Meshekey says he recorded his Uncle Desi Dillon singing an Anishinaabe Ceremonial Song which was used without permission in Latimer’s critically-acclaimed Viceland series “Rise,” which follows indigenous movements of resistance across the Americas.
“This is the same Michelle Latimer who used my recording of Moniidoo Mukwa without permission. She even had the audacity to use the song clip in a scene where some Apache People are celebrating 4th of YouLie (July 4th). When I confronted her she attempted to side step me by basically saying, We are all Native, and we share everything.” Says Meshekey.
Meshekey say’s his recording was first misappropriated by another Indigenous Artist located in Winnipeg Manitoba named“Boogey the Beat” where Latimer got the rights from to use it where Boogey the Beat sampled Meshekey’s ceremonial song and found it online and used it without permission. Latimer found Boogey’s version online and got the rights from Boogey and used it in Rise. Meshekey says he approached Latimer where he says he felt still disrespected as the song was an obvious Anishinaabe song and used to celebrate Apache’s celebrating a colonial holiday which goes against the message of his art. The use by Latimer of this sacred Anishinaabe Ceremony Song with Anishinaabe Language over clips of Apache Vets celebrating July 4th uses the Anishinaabe Song in a very Pan Indian way which demonstrates an insensitivity of culture and any “Indian song” fits any Indigenous backdrop.
“ I was being super respectful but then Latimer attempts to take no responsibility, passing it off on the artist boogey the beat.” Says Meshekey who has always been vocal in calling injustices and questioning many things in various Indigenous Circles. He also speaks on the frustrations of not being heard and validated when doing so in relation to Latimer recently being called out by CBC.
“ It’s about time. Mark my words though, because now it’s gonna be popular to call out these bastards even though us Nobody Windigokaan been calling out these fakes and Hollyweird for a long time. All we ever got was being called haters for trying to expose the crooked.” Says Meshekey. Phillip has been a performer in the Tribal Voice art form for over 10 years and has performed on many stages and alongside many well known voices such as John Trudell.
Phillip and his Uncle Desi are of the Anishinaabe Windigokaan, a Society of “Contraries” inwhich most Indigenous Nations have their distinct version and is akin to the so called “trickster figure.”
HIJACKED MOVEMENTS AND INDIGENOUS ELITIST’S
Trickster and Inconvenient Indian director Michelle Latimer poses on top of a condo rooftop in Toronto. Now Magazine. Photo Samuel Engelking
Our Movements been Hijacked for a while; being directed by and benefiting “white folk”. Political Correctness and Cancel Culture plays its part to allow this. “Lateral Silence” has everyone afraid to question and call things as they see it. Our Movements have been hijacked for a long time which is why I don’t trust many existing ones where our unbalance partly created by political correctness opens us up and allows such things to happen.
One issue many of us on the bottom of the societal totem pole recognize is when we call-out Injustices and hold those accountable in positions of privileged we are accused of lateral violence or being divisive for legitimate concerns. This past year I’ve witnessed others and also have experienced myself issues within the “Resistance” Movement where those of us who’ve been mistreated and experienced injustice within our own circles have demanded accountability from prominent activists and camps, spiritual people and even band politicians and councils for legitimate valid concerns but are belittled for speaking out.
The Supporters of these celebrity type activists, artists and people with platforms who are well known become like fan clubs who defend their hero’s and give them a pass and belittle those who are seeking accountability and calling out abusive behavior. Those who were victimized are revictimized where call-out culture within our circles has created an unbalance.
This past August 17 Metis Actress, Rosanne Supernault in an APTN interview addressed the lateral violence in what she describes as the “toxic Indigenous entertainment world” as she spoke on her experience in speaking out against her treatment by a member of a Tribe Called Red. and seeking accountability. https://www.aptnnews.ca/national-news/actress-says-she-was-ostracized-by-toxic-indigenous-entertainment-industry/
Those in privileged positions and their supporters create a sort of popularity cool kids clubs where calling someone out most times is only validated by people with such popularity, platforms or if you’re in the mainstream media. Elitist Circles exist in Academia, Arts Activism, Politics and even Spirituality across “Indian Country” and those on top most times seem to get protected or its taboo to call them out for their behaviors.
For a while our own People on the grassroots level were questioning people like Joseph Boyden and Michelle Latimer where political correctness labels those of us as being divisive for questioning concerns yet when mainstream media investigates and raises the same questions our people are quick to co-sign on those concerns coming from those arena’s. It took “whiteman’s” media for our people to make noise on this issue yet when our people on the ground make noise they get blacklisted and shamed.
Lateral Violence is also being misused by those who are actually engaging in this behavior and accuse their victims of this to gaslight and get the attention off of them.
Even our distinct Sacred Stories and societies are being hijacked and manipulated to assimilate us, Christianity to this overly passive ideologies can be seen influencing our Aatisokaanak. Most of our own Aatisokaankan spoken in our language if most understood would be considered Politically Incorrect and I wonder if Nanabush returned to help our People today I bet most would chase him away for being lateral violent for helping us look at ourselves. It’s easier to blame and point fingers at the “trickster” then to look at ourselves.
In the Spirit of the Season here is an Aatisokaan told by Waasaagonashkang who grew up on Rainy River, Rainy Lake, and the Lake of the Woods told circa 1905. Nanabush Pretends to be a Woman.Mii sa eni-izhi-maajaad babimosed. Mii sa ogii-debitawaa’ ikwewa’ manisenid; aaniish ogiimitawaa’: “Amanjigish ge-izhchige’ongobanen ji-wiidigemang a’aw inini?” ikidowa’. “Ambe sa noo, wawiyazh ninga-doodawaag awegweniwigwenag,” gii-inendam Nenaboozhoo Ogikenimaan ge-mawinid wegwisisinid. Mii dash gaa-izhi-wawezhi’od gaa-izhi-ikwekaazod. Mii dash adikoo’obiinisagosiin mii dash iniw gaa-aawechiged i’iw ikweng. Gaa-izhinaagwo’od, gaa-izhi-naazikawaad i’iw ikwewa’, o’ow idash ogii-inaa’ apii gaa-odisaad: “Aaniindi ayaad a’aw inini zhiingenimaad i’iw ikwewa’ gaa-inind?” Mii dash gaa-igod: “Mii omaa naaw-oodena ayaad,” ogii-igoo’. “Gagwaanisagizi, endogwen ji-inendang.” “Daga shkomaa, awii-inik,” odinaa’; “Nin-bi-izhi-nisha’ogoo ni-niigi’igoog,’” odinaa’ iw ikwewa’. Mii sa geget gaa-izhi-giiwed bezhig, gaa-izhi-wiindamawind wa’aw mindimooyenh wegosisid. E-kidod a’aw ikwe mayaajii’aajimod: “Biiwide omaa ayaa.” O’ow dash ikido: “Nimbi-izhinizha’ogoo ni-niigi’igoog,” ikido. “Mii dash gaa-pi-izhi-maajinizha’od, ‘awi-dibaajimon,’ nindig. Ni-zhaagwenim. ‘Daa-bi-izhaawag nindaangwayag.’(1)” Mii dash e-kidod aw mindimooye(2): “Aaniin dash i’iw andawaabamaasiweg,(1)” odinaa’ i’iw odaanisa’. Mii dash geget ba-izhi-nandawaabamaawaad igiw ikwewag, mii sa gaa-giiwewiijiiwaawaad igiw ikwewag. (1) Mii dash gaa-izhi’onoode’ind iwidi wendabinid iniw niniwan. (3) Mii sa zhigwa gii-onaabemid. (1) (4) Zhigwa owiishaamaa’ odaangweya’ ji-manisewaad(5). Aaniish ajina go gii-mamadwe’igewan, aazha niibiwa misan. “Awenen dash aw memindage ge-zhi-nshawisid?” odinaawaan, owiindamawaawaan ogiwaan. “Geget sa gii-zhi-nshawisii a’aw nindaangwewaan.” (6) Aaniish geget sa minwendam a’aw mindimooye, gaye a’aw akiwenzii gii-zhinshawisinid ona’aanganikwemiwaan.(7) Mii dash gaa-izhi-ganoonaad waabizheshiwan: “Ambe sa noo wiidookawishin o’ow ezhichigeyaan,” ogii-inaan. Mii dash iniw gaa-oniijaanisid; o’ow idash ogii-inaan: “Ambe sa noo, moozhag mawin,” ogii-inaan. Mii dash geget gaa-izhichigenid, dakobinaad ezhichiged mii eta i’imaa shkiinzhigoning zagapinaad; dakobinaad bimoomaawizod. Mii sa go pane mawinid. “Wo’ow idash ikidon,” ogii-inaan. “ ‘Dagwaagishoob niwii-amwaa,’ ikidon i’iw ji-mamawiyan,” ogii-inaan. Mii dash geget enwed a’aw abinoojii. “Dagwaagishoob niwii-amwaa!” inwed. Zhayiigwa nisidotawaa. Aaniish zhigwa zaagidoowan ozhinisan, aaniish ogimaawiwan; booch gii-zhichigenid i’iw anishinaabe ge-ikidod a’aw akiwenzii. “Aaniish, anishinaabedog, e-kidod wa’aw noozhishenh, ‘dagwaagishoob niwii-amwaa,’” ikido. Mii dash geget ge-bi-izhi-miinind Nenaboozhoo dagwaagishoobiin. Bizaan apii gaa-onizhishininig maajid. Mii dash waawiidigemaad iniw ininiwan, zhigwa ogikenimaan bigishkananinid iniw obiinisagosiin. Mii dash gigizheb aazha namadabiwan ozhinisan gaye ozigosisan mii sa zhigwa gikenimaad bigishkanijijaakaamaad. “Bisoo,” ikidowan ozhinisan. “Wegonenda gaa-izhimaagwag?” ikidowan ozhinisan. Geget mamiidaawendam; e-zhi-bazigwiid, aano-anishigaskabenid. Ezhi-bangishimaad ozhinisan e-naasamabinid, ezhi-maajiibatood. “Gegeti go ikwe inendamoog!” ikidowan Nenaboozhoowan.And then away he started upon his journey, travelling afoot. And so he came within the sound of some women who were gathering fire-wood; now he secretly overheard them saying: “(I) wonder how we can bring it to pass so that we can marry that man!” they said. “Now, a trick I am going to play on them, whoever they are,” thought Nanabushu. He knew that the mother (of the man) would cry. And so he got into gay attire after he had taken on the form of a woman. There was a caribou spleen which he turned into a woman’s thing. After he had taken on the form (of a woman), (and) after he had gone over to where the women were, this he then said to them when he came upon them: “Where is the man who is said to be a hater of women?” Whereupon he was told: “Here in the centre of the town he is,” he was told. “He is hopelessly impossible, it is uncertain what his feeling would be (concerning you).” “Then pray, do you go and give him a message,” he said to them; “I have been sent hither by my parents,” he said to the women. And so truly, when back one (of them) went, then was the old woman who was mother (to the man) given the message. Then said the woman who had conveyed the message: “A stranger is here.” And this she said: “I have been sent hither by my parents,” she said. “And so when I was set upon my way hitherward, ‘Go give the news,’ I was told. I was loath (to go). ‘Let my friends come hither.’ (said the woman(1)).” Thereupon said the old woman(2): “Why do you not go look for her(1)?” she said to her daughters. And so truly came the women seeking for her, whereupon back home the women went, taking her(1) with them. And then a place was made for her there where the man(3) was seated. Therefore she(1) now had a husband(4). By and by she wished her sisters-in-law to go with her to gather firewood(5). So in a little while after the sound of her chopping was heard, already (was there) much firewood. “Who is she that is such a remarkable worker?” they said to their mother, they said to her, telling her about it. “Truly a good worker is our sister in law.” (6) Now, thoroughly pleased was the old woman, as was also the old man, that such a good worker was their daughter-in-law.(7) And then she (Nanabushu) addressed the Marten, saying: “I wish you would help me in this that I am undertaking,” she said to it. And so that was the creature she had for child; and this she said to it: “Come, now, all the while do you cry,” she said to it. And that truly was what (the Marten) did. When she had it strapped to the cradle-board, her arrangement was such that she has it bound up as far as over the eyes; with it bound to the cradle-board, she played the nurse carrying it about on her back. And so all the while did (the Marten) weep. “Now, this do you say,” she said to it. “Some tenderloin do I wish to eat,’ do you say, so that you may cry,” she said to it. And that truly was what the infant cried. “Some tenderloin do I want to eat!” it cried. Presently they understood what it wanted. Now then out went her father-in-law to cry aloud, for he was chief; for of necessity were the people bound to do whatever the old man should say. “Now, O ye people! Thus says my grandchild, ‘Some tenderloin do I want to eat,’” he said. And so truly was Nanabushu given some tenderloin. It hushed while it was given something good to eat. And so while she (Nanabushu) continues living (as a wife) with the man, she then became aware that the spleen was decaying. And so one morning, while her father-in-law and mother-in-law were seated, she then began to realize that she was becoming rotten between the loins. “Phew!” said her father-in-law. “What is that which smells so?” said her father-in-law. Truly was she worried about it; when she rose to her feet, in vain she tried to keep it from falling. When she dropped it in front of where her father-in-law was seated, then away she started running. “Truly a real woman they thought!” said Nanabushu.