Idle No More protests occurred through out the year prior to our performance. The round dance taught me about coming together through difference and decolonial aesthetics.

During our creative process Billy brought the book Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back by Leanne Simpson.

Useful term:  emergence

As part of our process we read Dancing on our Turtle’s Back by Leanne Simpson. In the book she writes about stories of Nishnaabeg re-creation and resurgence and a new emergence. Billy was inspired by the concept of new emergence and we used this as a starting place for the piece. Simpson writes about resurgence or decolonization as a new emergence. Within it there is both a visioning process where new and just realities were Nishnaabeg being can flourish and an actual attempt to create these places, even if they just exist for fragments of time. re-storying was based on improvised scores (painting, movement, situating) where the participants could witness, participate in an event unfolding or instigate a new event.

Billy picked up on this term as a way of thinking through the piece. He wanted us to create a framework so that we started out with a framework (delianted by the scores) but then opened the piece further and further until it was shifting, moving, choregraphing itself, so that something could emerge that we could not imagine.

An interview with Leanne:

That was the difference with Idle No More because there were so many women that were standing up. Because of colonialism, we were excluded for a long time from that Indian Act chief and council governing system. Women initially were not allowed to run for office, and it’s still a bastion of patriarchy. But that in some ways is a gift because all of our organizing around governance and politics and this continuous rebirth has been outside of that system and been based on that politics of love.
So when I think of the land as my mother or if I think of it as a familial relationship, I don’t hate my mother because she’s sick, or because she’s been abused. I don’t stop visiting her because she’s been in an abusive relationship and she has scars and bruises. If anything, you need to intensify that relationship because it’s a relationship of nurturing and caring. And so I think in my own territory I try to have that intimate relationship, that relationship of love—even though I can see the damage—to try to see that there is still beauty there. There’s still a lot of beauty in Lake Ontario. It’s one of those threatened lakes and it’s dying and no one wants to eat the fish. But there is a lot of beauty still in that lake. There is a lot of love still in that lake. And I think that Mother Earth as my first mother. Mothers have a tremendous amount of resilience. They have a tremendous amount of healing power. But I think this idea that you abandon it when something has been damaged is something we can’t afford to do in Southern Ontario.

Naomi: Exactly. But it’s such a different political project, right? Because the first stage is establishing that there’s something left to love. My husband talks about how growing up beside a lake you can’t swim in shapes your relationship with nature. You think nature is somewhere else. I think a lot of people don’t believe this part of the world is worth saving because they think it’s already destroyed, so you may as well abuse it some more. There aren’t enough people who are articulating what it means to build an authentic relationship with non-pristine nature. And it’s a different kind of environmental voice that can speak to the wounded, as opposed to just the perfect and pretty.
Leanne: If you can’t swim in it, canoe across it. Find a way to connect to it. When the lake is too ruined to swim or to eat from it, then that’s where the healing ceremonies come in, because you can still do ceremonies with it. In Peterborough, I wrote a spoken word piece around salmon in which I imagined myself as being the first salmon back into Lake Ontario and coming back to our territory. The lift-locks were gone. And I learned the route that the salmon would have gone in our language. And so that was one of the ways I was trying to connect my community back to that story and back to that river system, through this performance. People did get more interested in the salmon. The kids did get more interested because they were part of the dance work.