“Before colonial governments created borders to delineate their new nations and force First Peoples into reservations, Indigenous people migrated in all directions across territories now known as Mexico, the United States, and Canada. These colonial demarcations on stolen land disregard Indigenous title and impede the free movement of Indigenous people on our own ancestral territories across Turtle Island.
The detention and incarceration of migrants and removal of their children at the southern US border to enforce a colonial boundary is criminal, abhorrent, and intentionally dehumanizing. The United Nations defines the forcible transfer of children from one cultural group to another as a genocidal act. In Canada and the United States, starting in the nineteenth century and continuing until the 1990s, Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and confined in residential schools where they were abused and stripped of their languages and cultures. The resulting intergenerational traumas are manifest in many aspects of our communities including the disproportionate incarceration of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons.
This intolerable act at the southern US border is both devastating to witness and painfully familiar. We must encourage all Americans to have compassion for the families who are being ripped apart, for it is from kisêwâtisowin that radical change begins.
Kent Monkman (b.1965 Canada) is a Cree artist who is widely known for his provocative interventions into Western European and American art history. He explores themes of colonization, sexuality, loss, and resilience—the complexities of historic and contemporary Indigenous experiences—across a variety of mediums, including painting, film/video, performance, and installation. Monkman’s gender-fluid alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle often appears in his work as a time-traveling, shape-shifting, supernatural being who reverses the colonial gaze to challenge received notions of history and Indigenous peoples.