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I have recently had the opportunity to visit the encampments at Standing Rock, and got to visit with many of the protectors there. The environmental justice issues at stake there are being addressed in a powerful, prayerful way. It’s truly inspiring to see so many people involved on the front lines, in the camps, and online.
It is my personal hope and prayer that this synergy strengthens, and grows. As huge as the Dakota Access Pipeline fight has become, sadly, it is but one of our environmental justice fights. I hope and pray that the energy behind this movement can be brought to the front lines in other states.
In my opinion, it comes down to raising awareness. The vast majority of environmental threats dwell in Indian Country and along our borders, often in economically depressed minority neighborhoods. The government and predatory corporations seek out places that could (will/do) effect our communities. Without public awareness, these issues will continue to occur in our back yards.
I’ve been creating art for decades that illustrates our plight, our journey as we seek environmental justice. Here are a few recent paintings.
I call this painting “Simple Math” because to me, it should be an obvious understanding that water is greater than oil. You can’t drink oil. You can’t even drill for oil without water. Water is life.
“Baby Oil” illustrates our dependence on oil as a society. The baby nipple on the oil bottle means two things: you can’t drink oil, and eventually, we need to ween ourselves off of oil. It’s time to explore and utilize renewable energy.
“Big Oil Protectors” is an illustration of the brute police actions being employed by North Dakota. The people show up with prayers, the police show up in riot gear. It’s astounding that journalists are being arrested, unarmed peaceful protectors are being strip searched and jailed, and that they unleash attack dogs. The police are decked out in military grade gear and carry assault rifles and shotguns. It is plain to see the extent the state will take to protect Big Oil interests.
#nodapl #bigoilfail #mortoncountsheriff
Back into the studio…
About Snapping Bull
What if we had social media in 1491? What if we could have posted, shared and organized using sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.? I would imagine 1492 and the following years would have turned out differently. We would have been able to pull together. We could have changed the world, using social media during that time period.
Imagine what we could do with social media in these days.
Never before in the history of this hemisphere have Indigenous people been so connected to one another. Social media has connected Indian Country, making it even smaller. We can share language, culture, songs, dances, cultural knowledge, art, writing, news and humor so easily. We can inform and inspire. We can make calls to action. We can still change the world.
I believe we need to adhere to a certain level of reverence when using social media. If you think about it, it’s no different than speaking to people in person. We need to remain respectful in our usage; respectful of the people we are talking to, and respectful of our “self.”
Although it may seem to many that the Native American mascot argument is a fresh fight, it is not. It is beginning to trend now, only because the fight has been going on for decades. It is trending now because awareness has been spreading, for decades. This movement needs to surpass the boundaries of a trend, though, and sustain, until racism in sports is eradicated.
A great and growing number of Americans are speaking out on this issue. People are realizing that the Washington Redsk*ns name and logo is completely racist. It only takes a moment to look into the pages of a dictionary to learn that “redskins” is a dictionary defined term. The argument for changing the name and removing racist mascots is steeped in truth and justice.
However, resistance to change exists; from the top of the Washington Redsk*ns organization to the loyal fan. We hear rebuttals such as, “Get over it. It’s just a name. There are bigger issues to worry about in Indian Country.” Etc., etc.
We will never “get over it.” I saw a meme on September 11, which had a picture of American soldiers standing around an open mass burial pit, full of Native American bodies. The text said, “White people be like ‘9/11 NEVER FORGET’, toward the genocide of Native Americans, they be like ‘GET OVER IT'” This meme, I believe, captures an interesting point. Would we tell Jewish folks to just “get over it” in regards to the Holocaust?
When people say, “It’s just a name” or “it’s not that big of a deal,” I find myself replying, “Then it shouldn’t be hard to change the name.” The judgement in that particular rebuttal is disturbing; it diminishes the voice and concerns of our people. Perhaps to them, it is just a name, and they can’t see the larger picture, how this mascot issue is tied into a much larger web of social injustice and racism that we are up against.
When people say, “There are bigger problems to worry about in Indian Country”, they fail to see that this mascot issue is tied to several of those “bigger” issues. There are masses of people working toward fixing those other “bigger” issues, many of whom are also working on changing the name.
Personally, I believe that it is long over due for racist mascots, names, and logos to come to an end. These teams claim to “honor” Native American people. If that’s true, then truly honor us. Listen to us. #changethename #notyourmascot
Throughout my career, I’ve often been asked about my use of gas masks in my art. Here is my original artist statement about the series that started it all:
GAS MASK AS MEDICINE
This series came about after learning about toxic, radioactive waste sites popping up in Indian Country. I felt compelled to share the knowledge of their existences, and to tie in the relationship of biological warfare of past years with the construction of these sites, which typically target Indian reservations. I wanted the message to be strong, undeniable, and memorable. I wanted people to think about it, to ask questions. So, I used the image, and idea, of the gas mask.
Feeling grateful for the people in my life. More »