Category Archives: Artist Reflections

Indigenous Feminisms


Indigenous Feminisms & Womanism: A Conversation with Lorena Cabnal & Megan Kanerahtenha:wi Whyte
Hall Building 760 Concordia University
Thurs. Mar. 9 @ 11:30am

Join us for a chat with Lorena Cabnal and Megan Kanerahtenha:wi Whyte where we’ll hear about their work for gender justice in different communities and contexts. Both are connecting the land and body through issues such as reproductive justice and challenging violence against women, as well as extractivism. They’ll talk to us about two alternatives to mainstream feminism that arise in their work: communal feminism (feminismo comunitario) and Indigenous womanism.
– Speaker Biographies –

Lorena Cabnal is Maya-Qeqchi Xinca and a communal feminist, as well as a healer. She is from the Network of Ancestral Healers of the Commununal Feminism of Iximulew-Guatemala, a member of the Alliance Against the Criminalization of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala. Lorena co-founded the Association of Indigenous Women of Santa María Xalapán (AMISMAXAJ), working towards the revitalization of the Xinka ethnic identity and the recovery of their ancestral lands. She has also been active in leading the struggle against Canadian mining in her community despite suffering threats and persecution because of her work. She has taken part in the creation of a approach to healing which connects communal feminism and Mayan cosmovision for the spiritual and emotional recuperation of Indigenous women in communities facing multiple forms of violence, both within their communities and in defense of territory.

Megan Kanerahtenha:wi Whyte is a young mother, artist, art educator, and art therapist candidate from the Kahnawake Mohawk First Nation community. She is currently completing a MFA at Concordia University in Art Therapy, with focus on addressing multigenerational trauma and attachment through visual media. Outside of her schooling, Megan is actively involved with the Kahnawake Youth Forum, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and the Indigenous Young Women’s National Advisory Board providing an arts-based approach to social change. Her main project, Skatne Ionkwatehiahrontie, is a youth program that aims to foster relationships to the land, explore sexual health and connect youth to cultural networks. Megan’s social work in these spaces also inspire her artistic development, having her art pieces reflect concepts of healthy relationships, indigenous ‘womanism’, as well as environmental, reproductive, and social justice.

In partnership with Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala (PAQG)and their speaking tour, which is focused on denouncing the criminalization of human rights defenders. More information here:

Girl Positive Book Launch

On September 28th 2016, I participated on a panel discussion surrounding the “Girl Positive” book launch. The book, compiled and edited by Tatiana Fraser and Caia Hagel, features stories of girls across Canada regarding themes of empowerment, community mobilization and challenging heteropatriarchal dialogues within society.

I was included in this book for my community work regarding creating safe spaces for young Indigenous mothers to explore identity, cultural tools and empowerment as women. During the panel discussion, I explored the impact of colonization on female Indigenous identity and the ways in which cultural restoration impacts personal growth.

CBC Montreal “Turtle Island Reads”

On September 21st 2016, I was commissioned by CBC radio to create a live painting for their Turtle Island Reads. Turtle Island Reads is an Indigenous initiative that celebrates First Nations, Metis and Inuit literature that have had a significant impact on educators, youth and professionals in the community.

The live event consisted of a panel of community members discussing the role of Indigenous literature in the context of decolonization, socio-political movements and identity development.

My role was to capture the theme of the hour-long event within the hour provided. I chose to paint the creation story as a segue into exploring how narratives shape our lives as Indigenous people.

Still Dancing


Last week, I was invited to sit on a panel to support an Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls alongside Dr. Dawn Lavell Harvard, (President, Native Women’s Association of Canada), Delilah Saunders (sister of Loretta Saunders), Gladys Radek (aunt of Tamara Lynn Chipman and founder of Tears4Justice) and Matt Smiley (director of the film, Highway of Tears).

After viewing Smiley’s film, we discussed the implications of an Inquiry, underlying factors as well as the reflection of the actions in Val D’or Quebec. (

While other panelists spoke of personal experience as well as legislative action, I brought a youth and grassroots activist perspective. I talked about how stereotypes and the reinforcement of them contribute to systemic violence; I provided ways in which everyone can contribute when legislative means are not accessible, including art submissions, letter writing to Halloween stores and learning history from the people.

We acknowledge that our women are girls are not born at risk, they are put at risk by a system (government, foster care, education) that continues to run along the assimilation stream. While it is true that residential schools have closed and women no longer lose their status by leaving the community, other methods have developed from environmental violence, lack of nation-to-nation discussion, poor education and inadequate funding.

Skátne Ionkwatehiahróntie’ – “Our Families Grow Together” GoFundMe page

Skátne ionkwatehiahróntie’ is a youth-led grass roots program dedicated to supporting young families under the age of 25 in parenting and caring for children, including young parents, pregnant women and couples, youth thinking of starting families as well as sibling caregivers, aunts, uncles, step parents, two spirited and LGBTTIQQA community members.

The mission of the group is to explore and decolonize child development, sexual health, and parenting through an arts-based look into our Haudensosaunee seven rights of passage ceremonies, creation story and other land/traditional knowledge. This program also aims to combat the shame, stigma and “failed” labels young parents face with empowerment and cultural restoration.

Using traditional teachings as the root, the program also helps to heal and understand the effects of generational trauma from residential schools and colonization.  We weave together theories of attachment and security with Haundenosaunee Rites of Passage, land and ceremonial Teachings to explore reproductive health and parenting as a package, from safe sex tools to defining consent and boundaries to deconstructing healthy relationships to understanding the behaviour of children as a result of our own.

(Learning traditional medicine preparation)

(learning about the body through planting and our Creation Story)

Through these teachings in the land, we explore our relationships to our bodies, to the Earth and to our ancestors.

As a second layer, the program uses interactive activities and art-therapy/art-education models to work towards this decolonization of sexual and reproductive health as well as  colonial models of health.

(At the end of each week, we draw/write/paint in response to our teachings, discussions and play.)

The young parents group has thus far successfully completed two sessions, each lasting 10 weeks. There is a growing demand and waiting list of young parents, parents-to-be, and youth wanting to participate in the program both within the community and outside.

Funding this program will allow us to continue developping and offering the program and will help us towards sustainability with the other organizations in the community and long term funders. Meeting our goal would allow us to provide a year’s worth of programming totaling 30 weeks which includes facilitator fees, art supples, elder honorariums, and food.

Please support Indigenous young parents to parent and support youth to develop, love and grow themselves. As an Indigenous young parent myself, I know how important support, education and culturally safe spaces are to parenting and my own identity development.

We are important too.

(Learning about tracking our moontime and what role it plays as life givers and as women)

To see what we’ve been up to, visit

Art-making and Self Determine-Nation

Yesterday, a colleague and I travelled to Quebec City to co-facilitate a workshop on human rights, community mobilization and youth activism as part of the Quebec and Labrador First Nations Youth Forum.

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Participants visual art response to the question: What human rights are you passionate about and what is one thing you can do for yourself, your family or your community to acknowledge it?

As the media arts coordinator of the Kahnawake Youth Forum and in collaboration with the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, we put together a series of art activities and ice breaker warm ups to move the energy and activate the processing abilities of the group.

From human rights pick up lines to creating a Self Determine-Nation collage, we journeyed through the grey area, also known as Human Rights.

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Circle debrief

We reminded ourselves, that Indigenous rights are human rights. They are not “special rights”.

We reminded ourselves that we are born into our language, our culture and the land. These are inherent rights and are legally binding (UNDRIP–United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People); they are not given or determined by an outside entity.

We also reminded ourselves of the work of our ancestors, like Deskaheh, who teach us how to stand up for our rights as Indigenous People and as Human Beings. He teaches us that we have a voice in the United Nations arena and that we have a voice on what affects our own lives.

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Colleague Jessica Deer and I

Through the work that we do, we always reminded that changes and conversations on Human Rights do not have to start at the UN level, but can and should start in the home, in the family and in the community.

Art creates change.