Aboriginal Advocacy Via Web 2.0 and Social Media

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Rebecca Belmore – Canadian Aboriginal Human Rights Feminist Activist –

Well-known Canadian Aboriginal, feminist, artist and human rights activist, Rebecca Belmore, conducts her street performance, ‘Vigil,’ on a corner in Downtown East Side, Vancouver. This performance was captured via video and then downloaded on Web 2.0 which enables all those with internet access to engage in Belmore’s activism and artistic forms. While viewing the performance video, ensure to look at the audience, there are perhaps two dozen people physically watching her performance on the street. Pre Web 2.0 and social media that would have been the number of people influenced by her powerful and emotionally exhausting tribute to the missing and murdered ‘sisters’ in Canada. With Web 2.0 and social media now a multitude of people are engaged and influenced by her work thus making a more powerful activist statement.

What do you think of her performance?

Do you believe that Web 2.0 and social media enables the mobilization of Aboriginal activism in a positive manner and thus is actually influencing positive social change for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadian people alike?”

From Rebecca Belmore’s website:

Title: Vigil
Date: 2002
Medium: Performance
Location: 2002 Talking Stick Festival, Full Circle First Nations Performance
Firehall Theatre, Vancouver, BC

Performing on a street corner in the Downtown East Side Vancouver, Belmore commemorates the lives of missing and murdered aboriginal women who have disappeared from the streets of Vancouver. She scrubs the street on hands and knees, lights votive candles, and nails the long red dress she is wearing to a telephone pole. As she struggles to free herself, the dress is torn from her body and hangs in tatters from the nails, reminiscent of the tattered lives of women forced onto the streets for their survival in an alien urban environment. Once freed, Belmore, vulnerable and exposed in her underwear, silently reads the names of the missing women that she has written on her arms and then yells them out one by one. After each name is called, she draws a flower between her teeth, stripping it of blossom and leaf, just as the lives of these forgotten and dispossessed women were shredded in the teeth of indifference. Belmore lets each woman know that she is not forgotten: her spirit is evoked and she is given life by the power of naming.

To preview Belmore’s performance:

rebecca_belmore1_1000  Human Art by Rebecca Belmore

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Stop the Violence – Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women – when will it be enough!

“Am I Next? Is he watching me now?

Stalking me like a predator and its prey.

Waiting, waiting for some perfect spot,

time or my stupid mistake.

How does one choose a victim?

Good question, isn’t it?

If I knew that, I would never get snuffed.”

-written and shared on social media by Sarah de Vries, Dec. 1995,

prior to her abduction and murder

26 years old

Went missing April, 1998.

Found Murdered, August 6, 2002 in Port Coquitlam

Source – (Stolen Sisters, 2004,  p.29)

Invisible, isolated and dehumanized, Canadian Indigenous women are seen as “vicious stereotypes born of ignorance and aggression”(No More Stolen Sisters, 299, p. 5)  and are nothing but “objects with no human value beyond sexual gratification” (No More Stolen Sisters, 299, p. 5).   Hate crimes, hate speech and the denial of human rights and freedoms are the historical fabric which has been deeply and tightly woven into each Aboriginal person’s autobiography and continues to have extremely detrimental impacts on the members of our First Nations people and in particular, Canada’s aboriginal women.  Hate crimes such as the incident reported on January 2, 2013 in Thunder Bay, Ontario. “A sexual assault of a [unnamed] native woman in northwestern Ontario that is being investigated as a hate crime has thrown fresh fuel on the fires of discontent being expressed in protests and demonstrations by first nation’s people across Canada” (Galloway, Globe and Mail, January 2, 2013, 11:00PM).  Hate speech such as: “They called her squaw and dirty Indian as she was walking and they were throwing things at her from the car, pieces of garbage and cans,” said Christi Belcourt, a noted Canadian artist who is a friend of the alleged victim and is speaking on her behalf” (Galloway, Globe and Mail, January 2, 2013, 11:00PM).   Similar incidents in combination with the denial of their freedoms and rights have created a precarious environment of fear, anger and frustration for these women.

Aboriginal women are justifiably angry and frustrated at the fact that they are becoming an “endangered species” (M. Beech, WordPress, Mar. 24, 2010) through the ignorance and inaction of those that have the responsibility and ability of enforcing and protecting the rights and freedoms of all Canadians.