Courtesy Marlene Hale
More than 40 Indigenous artists across Canada have shown their solidarity with Ukraine by organizing a fundraiser for Ukrainians struggling due to the ongoing Russian invasion.
On behalf of the Canada-Ukraine Foundation (CUF), Marlene Hale, a Wet’suwet’en activist, initiated a campaign with the goal of raising $10,000 through GoFundMe by providing artwork by Indigenous artists.
Hale believes this support is important because “Indigenous people know better than anyone else what it feels like to have your land stolen.”
“As Indigenous people, we are in solidarity with Ukraine,” she said. “The same way as worldwide people have been in solidarity with us, we are giving back.”
Land defenders from all over Canada are making beadwork, pottery, prints and photography. Then, for every 50 donations, organizers will be drawing a donor to be sent a gift of beaded sunflowers as a token of appreciation, Hale explained.
“I’m also getting a ribbon skirt with the Ukrainian flowers and flag colours, which is yellow and blue, done by one of the artists in Kahnawake, Don Barnarby,” she said.
Once Kahnawa’kehró:non artist Martin Akwiranoron Loft heard about the campaign, he decided right away to participate because “Indigenous people experienced all that, they have faced invasion of their territories, and have been bullied in the past.
It is personal for myself. I remember 1990 when the Canadian army invaded our lands,” he said. “There was a threat of invasion of our community. I can almost taste it. The shock is still there. There were fights; things were tense. We faced guns and soldiers in Kahnawake and Kanesatake. We stood up and would totally do it again.
“The US and Canada attempted to destroy us, but we survived,” he continued. “People are still speaking our language, participating in ceremonies, and have allies in the world.”
Loft believes there are also cultural ties between the Indigenous and Ukrainian peoples in Canada. “In the prairies, people had been purchasing colourful Ukrainian scarves,” he said. “It was so popular for many generations; it was produced like beads and has become almost like a garment.”
Overall, Loft said, we have to educate ourselves, “to be vigilant and active to make a little bit of a difference in the world.”
Oksana Kuzyshyn, CUF chief operating officer, said this initiative by Indigenous people is a thoughtful gesture that all Ukrainian-Canadians appreciate. The collected funds are used to purchase food, hygiene packages, and medicines for the citizens of Ukraine affected by the war.
“We work through established non-governmental organizations for the procurement and distribution of the packages,” she said.
“The CUF Humanitarian Appeal has already delivered multiple batches of aid to affected populations in all corners of Ukraine, including some of the hardest-hit cities in the north, east and south of the country.
“Our support also extends to affected families who have made their way across the border into neighbouring countries such as Romania and Moldova, as well as providing food for internally displaced families from across Ukraine who find themselves in Lviv and surrounding areas,” Kuzyshyn explained.
According to her, to date, over $5 million in aid has been delivered, and the next humanitarian aid will follow in the coming days, as it is necessary to monitor all deliveries and assess the evolving needs together with partners on the ground.