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Jeneen Frei Njootli
Artist


November 08, 2017

Jeneen Frei Njootli is a member of the self-governing Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and co-creator of the ReMatriate Collective. Based between the Yukon and unceded Coast Salish territories, she works collaboratively with artists, communities, youth, and the land. Her practice takes the shape of sound, performance, fashion, workshops, and barbeques. In 2016 she received the Hnatyshyn Foundation, William & Meredith Saunderson Prize for Emerging Canadian Artist and was recently awarded the 2017 Contemporary Art Society of Vancouver Artist Prize. Her solo exhibition red rose ad lidii is on display at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery until November 26. (Photo: Emmanuel Etti)

1. Caribou

NO DRILLING IN THE ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE.



The birthing grounds for the Porcupine Caribou Herd are located in the northeastern corner of Alaska. Our people have had a relationship with this herd and depended on them for survival for over 20, 000 years. We are still subsistence hunters and need the caribou. For decades an international fight has raged to permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from resource extraction. Under the current administration, Republicans want to allow drilling as it could generate, according to Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski, tens of billions of dollars in revenue for the US.

Although we are now a bordered people with communities across Alaska, Yukon, and Northwest Territories, we speak with one voice to protect the caribou.



This photo was taken by Alli Harvey from Alaska Wilderness Week in March when a group of Gwitchins and myself went down to Washington to advocate among many allies for the permanent protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Several times a year Gwitchin delegates travel to Washington and throughout the US to educate senators and staffers on the life-sustaining relationship we have with the caribou.

2. ReMatriate



Working with this incredible group of women has been such a bright light in my life. Very excited about some projects and collaborations we are working on!

3. Sewing



For two months this spring, I sewed in Old Crow. Sewed gifts for community. Sewed gifts for family. Sewed for LandMarks2017. Sewed to clear my mind. To learn from and with people. To fill my dad’s house, my brother’s house, her house, and the centre with sound. A sound that carries care, warmth, old knowledge and intricacy. Rememory of falling asleep in the living room while she sewed all your and your siblings clothes late into the nights. Feminized labour is often invisibilized. Sewing is a survival skill, especially up here.

4. Sleep

A friend and I were talking about coping with full plates. Sometime the overwhelm and the tired feels so great that you just sleep. On the cement, the carpet, a jacket, a couch, the back of a car, in your bus seat. For five, ten, fifteen minutes, then keep going. Like taking out and putting back in the same batteries, rolling them in place. Hoping your headlamp will last a little longer in this dark.



Sometimes the overwhelm and the bracing and the tired accumulate in a way that you sleep for two days when you get to Takaronto. Sometimes we learn that panic naps aren’t enough and you have to sleep for two days to not get bronchitis. That even after, you need twelve hours a night to make up for the fall, to make up for the summer, the year.

This is the first time I came here and didn’t get an infection in my lungs.

5. Outside



Ever think about how nature is a social construction? It’s good to find places to respectfully pick tea and berries in big cities.

 

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