The Artist

by | Jul 1, 2021 | 0 comments

“Aaniin, boozhoo ndinawemaaganidog. Nibiiwakamigkwe ndizhinikaaz. Niizh manidoowag ndayaan. Waabizheshi ndoodem. Gaa-sagaskwaajimekaag ndoonjibaa, gaye oodena-aandakiide-wiinibiigoo-akiig ndaa. Miigwech bizindawiyeg // Hello relatives. My name is nibiiwakamigkwe, which translates to watery ground or wet earth femme person. I have two spirits and use they/them pronouns. I’m marten clan from the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Ojibwe, I sit in the bear clan of the Oneida Indian Nation, and am a Métis descendant of the Red River settlement in Manitoba. I live in Teejop, also called Madison, Wisconsin, which doesn’t have a name in Anishinaabemowin, the language of the Ojibwe people in which I introduce myself. I have loosely translated it to ‘a town elsewhere on Ho Chunk Land.’ I then thanked you for listening.”

nibiiwakamigkwe says introductions are important in Native communities. In them, they disclose their family and their community, and acknowledge the land on which they live and who shares it with them. It is their way of explaining who they are. This method of understanding themselves allows them to realize the roles of their queerness and sexuality in relation to themself and their community. They use the term Two-Spirit, a Native-exclusive term for those who fulfill multi-gendered roles in their communities. They are marten clan, warriors and hunters, and bear clan, medicine keepers.

When nibiiwakamigkwe moved to Teejop to study at the UW, they were unsure how to fulfill their clan duties. Where was the need for warriors or medicines in the city? They learned there was plenty: While they still appreciate these roles in the traditional sense, they recognize that people can commit to their clans in other ways.

Art and community-based organizing are nibiiwakamigkwe’s ways of protecting and nourishing their peoples. They work in traditional Indigneous arts, utilizing materials directly gained from growing, gathering, and hunting from the land. These traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee lifeways sustain them and others and act as a continued connection to those who’ve gone before and those who will come after.

Advocacy through art has lead nibiiwakamigkwe to work with UW School of Human Ecology, Arts+Lit Lab, Communication Madison, Our Lives magazine, Sovereign Bodies Institutie, Indigenous Climate Action, Milwaukee Art Museum, Madison New Music Festival, City of Madison, Web of Virtual Kin, as well as supporting school curricula and private consulting from subjects of cultural appropriation and preservation, Indigenous climate understandings, and combating the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples crisis.

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2021 Pride in Color Leadership Features

The Influencer: Ladi London is a brown-skinned, femme trans Milwaukee native who produces videos and other content to effect change and cultivate community.

The Artist: nibiiwakamigkwe is a two-spirit Indigenous artist, activist, and organizer interested in healing and visibility.

The Table Shaker: Yanté Turner is an openly trans and queer Black change agent working as an Inclusion and Equity Coordinator as well as a doula.

The First: Ankita Bharadwaj is a lawyer, advocate, and trail blazer who knows the journey upward is often isolating, but that it is worth it.

The Founder: Rick Banks is co-founder of MKE Black, Inc. which connects Black Milwaukeeans to Black culture, events, and Black-owned businesses.

The Scholar: James McMaster is a queer Asian-American educator, and activist who lives by example in the classroom and out in community.

The Professor: Víctor M. Macías-González is Professor of History and Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at UW-La Crosse.

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