As an Nlaka’pamux cultural tattoo practitioner I have had the benefit and honor of helping in the revival efforts of many Indigenous nations across Canada as I travel and share the gifts I have been given. A simple question at my Earth Line Tattooing Action at the Gallery 101 exhibition opening of “Owning with the Gaze,” in October 2015 curated by Cheryl L’Hirondelle sparked my thinking, which has manifested into the first Earth Line Tattoo Training Residency. Rachelle Dickenson asked that pivotal question as she sat and chatted with me as she received her skin stitch Earth Line. It was a simple question in the context of the conversation around my work in reviving Indigenous tattooing in Canada, “What is next?” My reply came, “I need to figure out how to teach others how to do what I do.”
At the heart of my research is my struggle as an urban indigenous person of mixed ancestry, who wants to locate my sense of self and belonging.
The question of identity in this context is one that is plagued by centuries of colonial genocide on the Indigenous peoples of the America’s and the world over. The reclaiming of an indigenous identity has been necessitated by the following but not limited to them, legislative policies of colonial governments, policies which include residential schools, the arbitrary legal right to tell indigenous peoples who indigenous peoples are, and land theft. As well as the continued colonial mythology of the tests of authenticity and primordiality.
This post has nothing to do with Indigenous Tattooing but everything to do with Modern Tattooing, when I seen it I had to post it. I have begun to realize the other day that to deny that portion of me that is not at all Indigenous, the portion that comes from being brought up in an Indigenous diaspora, predominately in an urban environment is deny part of who I am. Just as George Nuku said the ancient and the modern have to merge otherwise we do not have current reality (my paraphrase).
In the Hangover Part 2 one of the main characters Stu wakes up with a tattoo on his face resembling the one on the face of Ex Boxing Champ Mike Tyson. The American tattoo artist S. Victor Whitmill claimed that the tattoo presented in the movie was so close to the one he tattooed on Tyson that it was an infringement of Intellectual property rights. I believe there is certainly some issues that need to be resolved around Intellectual property rights involving modern tattooing practices, but I believe the issues get a little bit more difficult when it come to the tattooing practices of Indigenous peoples and cultures.