indigenous memes: insight to an ignored perspective

Memes are defined as humourous images, videos, and pieces of text that are spread through the internet. Memes differ from verbal jokes in many ways. The most significant differences between memes and verbal jokes is the accessibility of memes on the internet and the speed at which they can be distributed. These images and other forms of media are often used to convey specific ideas and anyone with basic photo editing and social media skills can make and distribute one. This has led to memes being a diverse platform for various topics and senses of humour.

For example, being a university student has lead to my being a fan of memes made by other broke university students – often mocking universities, the cost of tuition or text books, and different programs or courses. These memes highlight common university student perspectives and thoughts while allowing for harmless jabs about different programs, schools, and student habits.

From my findings: Indigenous memes are on the rise and creators use Instagram as their main platform to get their message out. With tens of thousands of followers among eight popular Indigenous memes instagram accounts, these memes connect people through humour and mutual understanding. Often criticizing the Canadian Government, Canadian police, and non-Indigenous residents of Canada – these memes highlight the thoughts, ideas, and perspective of some Indigenous people across Canada.

Memes are a form of information sharing though a creative forum – and that is why they are important.

Indigenous people living on reserves face a different reality often ignored by main stream media. Under-reported and under-funded issues such as housing crises, lack of access to potable water, missing and murdered indigenous women, obstructed access to health care and other public services, etc are the reality for Indigenous communities across Canada. These memes may bring to light some of the issues these people face and the perspective of Indigenous people.

sti meme 1

The message I got from this image is that non-indigneous people are taking spaces that could be used for Indigenous people and that more attention should be given to actual Indigenous people for their experiences and knowledge. This can be seen in Harvard Law School’s effort to increase diversity of their staff and later highlighting that Elizabeth Warren is Native American. Elizabeth Warren may have a native ancestor, however she is predominantly white and it is clear she was using the minority label for her monetary and political benefit. Where there is an opportunity to hire an Indigenous person, hire an Indigenous person. Meme by since.time.immemeorial

arnell meme 1

Racism in Thunder Bay, Ontario is no secret. On a per capita basis, Thunder Bay is the hate-crime capital and has been coined as the most racist city in Canada. With a population of approximately 105,000 people, 13-15% of those being Indigenous, Thunder Bay has the highest proportion of Indigenous people. In 2018, the Thunder Bay Police Service was criticized for having a “racist attitude” after a two-year long investigation highlighted errors in cases regarding homicides of Indigenous people including the poor collection of evidence, a lack of appropriate witness follow-up, and general neglect of duty. Meme by arnell.tf

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This image speaks for itself. History classes glaze over the vast majority of the long history of this land and it’s original inhabitants. Often starting at the “discovery” of North America and minimizing the genocide and intentional harm and displacement of First Nations communities, text books neglect to cover a true and representative history of Canada. For example, the study unit on Residential Schools and Treaties and their role in shaping Canada would likely not be a part of the curriculum if not being one of the 94 Calls to Action. These “age-appropriate” lessons are taught in schools across Canada, however, simplification leads to lost details and accuracy. Meme by skodenne

img_9936

Canada was built on the genocide of First Nations people and culture. Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, had a policy for starving Indigenous people to death in order to further western expansion of European settlers. Food provided to First Nations by the newly established Canadian Government was often rancid and in one case, the flour provided to a Cree reserve was actually sawdust. The High Arctic Relocation was a premeditated move by the Canadian Government to reinforce Canadian sovereignty in the Canadian Arctic and solve the “Eskimo problem.” Residential Schools, which existed from 1828 and 1996, had the purpose of removing indigenous children from their homes to eliminate First Nations culture. Exact numbers are uncertain, however, its widely accepted that more than 4,000 children died while attending residential schools and tens of thousands of others faced physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Meme by arnell.tf

img_9935

Dressing up for Halloween as another culture or background/race is a racist gesture. It can be considered offensive. Cultures are not costumes. This meme also touches on the sad reality of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). According to the Department of Justice, the homicide rate of Indigenous women was almost six times higher than non-Indigenous women in 2014. A stunning 53% of cases regarding MMIWG were solved compared to 84% of homicide cases in Canada. Meme by since.time.immemeorial

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Unfortunately, due to a concussion, I am no longer able to write even semi-intelligently about this piece. I did consider this to be a very well put together meme and at the time the message stood out to me. My apologies to red.boned.memes for being unable to speak about her piece. Meme by red.boned.memes

Meme Credit and Permission Note:

The artists highlighted in this article gave me permission to show their work as long as it is accompanied by proper credit to their Instagram accounts. Each image is credited to its creator under each image. Below you can click on the name of each creator and be taken to their Instagram account in a new page.

Arnell.Tf   /   Skodenne   /   Since.Time.Immemeorial   /   Red.Boned.Memes

Disclaimer:

Due to a sudden change in my health, I was unable to complete this piece the way I originally envisioned it. I spoke to many meme-creators and had intentions of sharing 9-12 pieces with a deeper analysis. I developed a concussion after a fall on Monday, March 4th, 2019 and am simply unable to give this piece the time and work it deserves. I intend to write a better quality piece on Indigenous memes after healing. Thank you for reading.

Further Reading and References:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/thunder-bay-oiprd-report-1.4942388
https://roarmag.org/essays/colonial-secrets-canadas-racist-city/
https://www.thecrimson.com/article/1996/10/22/survey-diversity-lacking-at-hls-pa/
https://www.cnn.com/2016/06/29/politics/elizabeth-warren-native-american-pocahontas/index.html
Here is what Sir John A. Macdonald did to Indigenous people
https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/jr/jf-pf/2017/july04.html
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/jun/25/indigenous-women-murders-violence-canada

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