My people are called Tl’azt’en and we have lived on the shores of Northern Lakes and Rivers for thousands of years.
My people are called German, Austrian, Hungarian. My people are called Irish. I know less about these roots.
I was raised in a family where my Indigenosity was considered primary and I see it as one of my primary cultural influence, my Tl’azt’en roots.
I grew up hunting and fishing. We smoked the meat we hunted and fished and called it ‘tsungi. I grew up knowing I’d never be as good a hunter as the “more” Indian boy beside me.
My dad spoke a language I didn’t understand and despite my mom asking him repeatedly to teach us, he did not. It wasn’t until many years later, a grown man, that I understood why he had such trouble teaching us this language he was so desperate to save.
I grew up not knowing whether to love or hate my Indigenous self. I grew up not knowing whether to love or hate my whiteness. I have spent much of my life doing both the loving and the hating.
With a lot of work I’ve come to see the confusion as an aspect of the impact of colonization, an aspect of our government’s policy of assimilation and cultural genocide. Anything different than the british empire’s ideals of civilization was actively pursued in an effort to snuff it out.
But I’m still here baby!!
I’m still actively engaged with those who came before me, my ancestors and me shouting it to the world.
You did not kill us.
You did not succeed!!!
But you’ve tried like hell. This is some of that story.
View Damian John's Artist Talk Video: https://fb.watch/7CQ4PNGuWu/