ReMatriate wants to take back 'visual identity' of First Nations

A Yukon woman is part of a national group fighting back against the misappropriation of indigenous images and labels in pop culture.

Traditions belong to families, clans and people who fought to preserve them: ReMatriate member

Claire Anderson, right, spoke with CBC host Leonard Linklater about the ReMatriate collective made up of indigenous women from across the country. (CBC)

A Yukon woman is part of a national group fighting back against the misappropriation of indigenous images and labels in pop culture. 

Claire Anderson, a lawyer in Whitehorse, is a member of ReMatriate, a collective of women from different First Nations across the country using photography and social media to take back control of their "visual identity." 

The tipping point came when a Canadian designer announced its new fashion line called D-Squaw, which its website stated was inspired by "Canadian Indian tribes." 

That provoked a group of women to start talking about how they could create awareness around use of the word "squaw," said Kelly Edzerza-Bapty, a member of the collective who lives in Vancouver. 

"[Squaw] is such a derogatory term to refer to young indigenous women," said Edzerza-Bapty.

She said ReMatriate was formed to start discussing "how can we start to take that image and turn it into a positive message in which we can show what indigenous women represent." 

The ReMatriate collective is using social media and photography so First Nations can 'be the ones that control the lens through which we are viewed.' (ReMatriate)
Edzerza-Bapty said the collective is made up of a diverse group of female fashion designers, singers, models, architects, artists and advocates.

"ReMatriate" refers to the group's desire to take back their female identify and role in society.They plan to do this by sharing the images and stories of First Nations women through social media (Facebook, Instagram) and eventually, photography exhibitions. 

Many Western indigenous cultures were based around a a matriarch system, the female role in the community, Edzerza-Bapty explained.

Traditions, culture, not part of public domain

Anderson said she thinks people forget how recently some First Nations cultural practices – like potlatches – were "outlawed." 

People take it for granted that First Nations' traditions belong to the public domain, she added, but "it really doesn't. They belong to families, they belong to clans, they belong to the people that fought to preserve it."

Anderson said the collective is hoping indigenous women of all ages approach them with their stories, photos and ideas. 

ReMatriate wants First Nations to lead the discussion about "who we are as a people and how we're represented," said Anderson.