FAQ: Potlatch Punk Manifesto

The Potlatch Ban was enacted between 1885 and lasted until 1951. Some communities were shielded by their remoteness, some concocted unconventional solutions and others simply faced the risk of arrest or were arrested for carrying their sovereign right to gather and exchange information, foster new relationships and courtships, hold their own government and redistribute wealth. The impact this ban has had affects us still today.

Potlatch Punk is partially a loving homage to these acts of resistance in times of diabolical genocidal states and partially to emblazon our image into history so that the systemic violence that continues today will always know the human cost of their programs; we are here, pressed into time and the land, even when you enforce our absence.

Potlatch Punk is not about creating salable commodities. It is about communication. It is about the occupation of space and using your body within a work because it is so amazing that because of and in spite of our history: we are here. We are here when it is difficult to be here and when it is difficult to celebrate being here. And “we are here” is not always the pronouncement we see in the news cycle or on a t-shirt, but is present with us in some of our quietest working moments; the emotional and spiritual labours that don’t make it to Instagram, facebook or twitter.

The Potlatch Punk series tends to manifest as pieces that are seemingly extroverted. They are statement pieces in their completion but the work of manifesting them is private and very, very quiet. In the script for Amanda Strong’s stop-motion short film biidaaban, my friend, the artist and performer Bracken Hanuse wrote of the character biidaaban, “though they are often alone, they are always working for their people”. Pushing a thread and needle and placing beads into a work is about a relationship between myself and the materials and it creates a space for contemplation. To that, the project is not about by-piece creation for consumption. Instead of consumption; conversation. It is about making visible and holding up the emotions and experiences that have been important to me and celebrating them. This includes my grief, joy, anxiety, rage, tenderness, queerness, patience, humour, shame, hostilities, relationships, loved ones, inspirations. Potlatch Punk is about the reclamation of these things within the land and territories of my body and spirit.

Potlatch Punk, both in its wearable manifestations and in its ethos is about opposition; resistance by survivance, by dedication and engagement even if your way is quiet. It’s about the energy you feel when you’re held in the light of those who recognize you before you collide into one another at the speed of survivance. Or in the pit. Either/or, just help one another up when you’ve been knocked on your ass.

Potlatch Punk is not about creating work to wear down the path of a runway. It is not about native but not for natives; it is not haute couture. It is thrifted jackets and scrap bins and learning from youtube beaders and obsessive embellishment; repurposing skills and materials to create works which each have their own experience and ways of relations. They are not finalized; they are open to reengagement. They are not perfected. They can be worn and worn-out, remade, mended.

If I were to hope for anything from this project it would be to inspire people to create their own jackets, their own clothing, expressions; to question their modes of consumption and to trust their own creative visions and intuitions. Ask if radical resurgence is going to come by owning every t-shirt righteously decrying the empire or if you need to Marie Kondo that shit and keep only what sparks joy from your deepest rage. Ask if you are supporting an artist or supporting a system (imperialism, capitalism) that you fundamentally do not agree with. Know the difference.

If joy is one hundred shirts, wear them all.

Use what you make.

Give what you can.

Protect what you love.

Punch nazis. Support Palestine. Black Lives Matter. Trans women are women. Don’t just consider accessibility, make it. Justice for our missing and murdered women and girls. Our Muslim communities are beautiful and deserve protection. Our Jewish communities are beautiful and deserve protection. Include our two-spirited/Indigiqueer community members in ceremony. Know that matriarchy is not utopia and requires loving relations not unquestioning compliance and that tradition is not inherently sacred but what we make sacred. Do not become complicit in oppression; think about these things when we are making. For me, this is how I Potlatch as a person away from their territory, their people and without their language.

Potlatch Punk is not about copyright; make your own jackets. This project is not original but it is creative. It is about making work to hold space together. To quote Roma punk Eugene Hutz in his song Illumination; “but we who see our destiny/ in sound of this same old punk song/ let rest originality for sake of passing it around”. That is to say; respect where the space we have came from and through who it was manifested and hold it (preciously), expand it (consensually and always with the intention of inclusion of those who also fight oppression). Fight for the spaces that hold you, fight to take them back when they’ve been pillaged, hold them even in the face of exploitation, co-optation and the on-going genocides of failing, imploding, and volatile colonial states that still seek to erase our bodies from the land and from our own creations. Hold your ground even when faced with the violence that is lateral. Hold it even when you’ve lost faith because we all need places that we can come back to.

Another quote, from dearest Alison Marks, “Live Long and Potlatch”.