Statement on Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Series #MMIP

“We Are Not Paper Dolls” is an amalgam of issues facing Indigenous communities: human trafficking, government sanctioned and perpetuated theft and abuse of children, impacts of extreme extraction industries, health inequity and injustice, broken treaty agreements, and stolen lands, just to name a few.

Images in these paintings are inspired from the Wet’suwet'en fight against the Coastal Gasoline pipeline in so-called Canada that came to a head in winter 2020 at the Unist’ot’en resistance camp and blockade. Red dresses were hung along the roadside against a backdrop of blinding white snow and blockade structures in a tribal ceremony to honor their stolen sisters. Each red dress symbolized a stolen or missing child or woman. The Matriarch drumming and singing, with a dress swinging in the background, is stamped in my memory. The Canadian government violated the tribe’s sovereignty when it permitted the pipeline without tribal consent. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police broke through the blockade, burned the Healing Center and Lodge down, used attack dogs and brutal force to remove the people from their territory, and Coastal Gasoline continued building the pipeline through unceded Wet’suwet’en land. 

Government sanctioned projects like pipelines, tar sands extraction, fracking, mining, and logging bring in outsiders to work in these industries. The companies build transitory housing camps also called man camps, because of the huge influx of men who come to work for the industry — raping the land, and the people. These entitled men commit petty crimes, but also kidnap, assault, traffic, rape, and murder women and children. In 2016, in the so-called United States, 5,712 Indigenous women and children went missing. It is apparent to me that Indigenous People are seen as second class citizens; treated like disposable, biodegradable toys — like paper dolls. Quick entertainment, thrown away, when the men are done.

 

“We Are Not Paper Dolls” is a tribute to and fundraiser for my friend, Cedar, who is fighting cancer. I met Cedar at a gathering of people fighting extreme energy extraction. Cedar is First Nations Anishinabe Two Spirit, a term used by Indigenous communities to identify a gender fluid being; Cedar uses the pronoun they. In 2020, they were diagnosed with breast cancer and are facing a mountain of debt in a system that fails to recognize Indigenous people as equal. But Cedar continues fighting, as they always have.

 

As a child, the Canadian government stole Cedar from their family and sent them to live in a government boarding school, where the “Indian” was to be schooled, beaten, and starved out of the children to become “good citizens in society.” Cedar survived the residential school experience and assisted with collecting the names and stories of the children stolen from communities; each story is as heartbreaking as the previous one. They turned all the collected information over to the Canadian government to create the Truth and Reconciliation Report, documentation of more than 150,000 children who were taken from their homes between 1883 and 1997, often forcibly, and placed in distant boarding schools for manual labor, religious instruction, and cultural assimilation. Cedar is a survivor. 

 

“We Are Not Paper Dolls” is also dedicated to Indigenous communities globally. Communities and peoples that are strong and powerful, continuing their cultural and spiritual traditions, and fighting the imperial powers that seek to destroy Indigenous people and the land. 

 

To donate to Cedar’s medical fund with PayPal: lclements1968@hotmail.com. Sale proceeds from these pieces go to Cedar’s medical funds.