REMATRIATE NOWHERE LAND
Rematriate connects Indigenous women throughout the world, smashing stereotypes as they embrace and celebrate their cultures, communities and education. Founded in 2015 by a core group in British Columbia and the Yukon, the collective uses social media to claim space for Indigenous women to showcase who they are, in their own words. Sometimes participants—all Indigenous selfidentifying women—nominate themselves, and sometimes community members nominate them, working with them to choose between one and three images that define their empowered identities. Each contributor creates a short biography detailing personal and community histories that both highlight their individual successes and reclaim their collective narratives. The images and texts are posted online via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“We came together out of a necessity to open up conversations around having sovereignty over our images. We live in a society of images and they carry a lot of weight and power,” reflects Jeneen Frei Njootli (Vuntut Gwitchin), a founding member of Rematriate. “I think it was necessary for Indigenous women to share their own images and stories, under their terms,” agrees Rematriate core member Denver Lynxleg (Anishinaabe). “I hope the images could prepare young women to see themselves as matriarchs in the making,” she says.
Over the past two years, Rematriate has expanded into a community of its own, uniting women through art and shared stories that co-opt the viral power of information networks and image-sharing. The collective’s work has also spread to institutional space. In November 2016, artists Sage Paul and Erika A. Iserhoff of the Setsuné Indigenous Fashion Incubator took over the Instagram feed of Vancouver artist-run centre Western Front for a month-long residency in support of Rematriate, posting images of hide-tanning and indigo-dyeing workshops, Haudenosaunee doll-making and sacred-fire building (“even tho it is considered a man’s role, women must also learn how to do this cause sometimes there might not be any men around when you need a fire for a sweat!”) to break down the barriers between traditional knowledge and contemporary Indigenous identities.
The women of Rematriate focus on their stories and the roles they play in their communities to reclaim power through, as Frei Njootli notes, “being able to self-authorize and have sovereignty over how we are perceived because for so long that gaze has been one-way.” Rematriate offers a safe space for Indigenous women to show the world who they are—complicated, complex, powerful, creative beings. —TENILLE CAMPBELL