By German Ocampo

“Art cannot change the world, but it can contribute to changing the consciousness … of the men and women who could change the world.” (Marcuse, 1978, p. 33)

The arts and artistic creations are perhaps one of the defining elements of humanity as it is considered to be at an integral aspect of community and cultural identity.  As an intrinsic part of all human cultures and identities, Art is the perfect tool to reimagine our common future because: 

  • “Art has the ability to change our minds—inspiring us to take on different perspectives and to reimagine our worlds” (Nossel, 2016, p. 103).  
  • “Art is a factor in the evolution of people’s attitudes towards each other and the planet’s ecosystems.” (Miles, 2016, p. 2).  
  • Art can contribute to shaping social and cultural norms by helping us imagine a more inclusive and just world. (Serra, Enríquez, & Johnson, 2017).  
  • “Artistic expression is transformative for the creator as well as the audience… [as it] changes a person and a community in ways that support larger social change by building agency as well as both individual and collective power” (Serra, Enríquez, & Johnson, 2017).  
  • Jarret Martineau sees the potential for art — especially indigenous art —  to bring about social change, because it creates spaces to “imagine and perform decolonial potentialities into being” (Martineau, 2015, p. 5).

Art conveys alternative worldviews with the aim of creating change, shifting narratives and challenging the status quo.  From this point of view, art making becomes a critical tool for solving complex social and environmental issues by providing us with new ways of visioning the world to creatively transform reality. According to Carrasco, Monferrer & Tarditi (2016), artistic and cultural practices empower communities by allowing them to communicate their concerns and aspirations for the future. It can be said that artistic events that are collaborative, participatory and community focused invite participants to integrate the areas of the self, culture, and its relationship with nature in new ways that may help us answer the complex issues of the present and into the future (Carrasco, Monferrer, & Tarditi, 2016).  

A social movement that is currently using the arts to mobilize people is the social movement to protect wild salmon. Wild salmon is the connective tissue of the Pacific Northwest connecting oceans, forest and communities, but over the last 150 years, every major industry – forestry, mining, fishing, energy production, and agriculture – has had an adverse effects on the ecosystems on which wild salmon depend on to survive (Ladd, 2011).  The Wild Salmon Caravan (WSC) explores how art and artistic creation, helps to promote collective action by celebrating the spirit of wild salmon through artistic and cultural events. The WSC reveals how art can be used to bring people together to understand the complex issues wild salmon face and stand up for their survival. According to the caravan’s vision holder Dawn Morrison – Neskonlith te Secwépemc leader –, the WSC weaves communities together with the intention to educate, inform, and resist the industrial developments that endanger wild salmon.  According to Dawn Morrison, the WSC seeks to inspire people by using “creative energy to transform the darkness surrounding the industrial storm that is endangering wild salmon” (Morrison, D., personal communication, November 21, 2018). The journey visits several Indigenous communities, both rural and urban, following the migration route of sockeye salmon up the Fraser Valley to their home streams, lakes and rivers in the southern interior plateau. The Caravan consists of a series of artistic and cultural events that take place along the route ranging from visual and performing arts, communal feasts, storytelling, guest speakers, parades, and cultural and spiritual ceremonies.   In 2018, the WSC visited communities in both Coast and Interior Salish territories with the intent to strengthen people’s relationship with salmon and affirm long upheld inter-tribal relations.  According to Wilson Mendes, the director assistant and media director with the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty (WGIFS) and WSC organizer, art serves as an incredible community engagement tool because it is an accessible and fun way to bring people together.  Mendes emphasizes that artistic endeavours help to break down social barriers between the participants, which in turn increasing the sense of community identity.  Mendes’ argument points to the arts’ ability to increase social cohesion by promoting high levels of understanding and social inclusiveness.   

In September 2018, The WSC hosted a variety of community-based artistic and cultural workshops where the participants were invited to create cultural regalia and material representations of salmon for a colourful and lively expression of their love for wild salmon.   The cultural workshops guided participants in the building of drums, cedar headbands, and paper Mache salmon hats to be used during the caravans and ensuing parades.  These cultural workshops were spaces filled with storytelling generally preceded by a traditional Welcome and traditional hand drumming and singing.  According to Leroux and Bernadska (2014), the storytelling aspect of these cultural workshops promotes a sense of belonging while Serra, Enriquez and Johnson (2017) highlight that storytelling serves to empower communities by allowing them to publicly expressing their shared values.  The stories shared are living memory of the fact that salmon has influence the people of the North West coast for millennia and inspired artists since time immemorial. Their stories uncover the profound physical, cultural, emotional, and interpersonal relationships the Pacific Northwest indigenous nations have with salmon.  In 2018, the WSC’s theme was mermaids, which set out to embrace the kincentric worldview that sees humans and all other living beings as part of an extended ecological family sharing ancestry and origins (Mendes, W., personal communication, November 21, 2018).   According to Mendes (2018), by enacting a mermaid persona, participants embody our deep connection to the natural world, and especially to salmon. The kincentric worldview does not only speak of our relationships to other living beings on earth, but of the responsibilities that come with upholding those relationships.  Dawn sees the WSC as ceremonial activism where the cultural workshops and art are created with the purpose of celebrating and honouring the spirit of wild salmon and our fundamental responsibility to protect them.  Dawn sees art as inextricably intertwined with “spirituality, intergenerational knowledge transfer, cultural continuity, community building, land and natural resources, and other important aspects of individual and community life” (Morrison, D., personal communication, November 21, 2018).  According to Dawn Morrison, art invites people to talk about the overarching environmental and social issues affecting all communities along the Fraser River in a way that can be understood by everyone.  Dawn and Mendes agreed that the arts that artistic events, in particular, colourful events, capture people’s attention and increase the chances for people joining the social movement to protect wild salmon. 

On the other hand, Wilson highlights that art provides a framework through which participants can engage more mindfully but in a “playful manner” with the complex issues facing wild salmon (Mendez, W., personal communication, November 21, 2018). Both Wilson and Dawn agree that using artistic events inspires the participants to learn about the issues rather than turning away from their complexity. Mendes alludes to arts’ ability to engage with the participant’s spiritual, intellectual, physical and emotional side (Mendez, W., personal communication, November 21, 2018).  “Art and ceremony embody the creative energy of salmon bringing strength and resilience to individuals and communities” (Morrison, D., personal communication, November 21, 2018).  It is essential to look at the potential for the Arts to foster the development of creativity and imagination needed to create meaningful social change and confront the complex environmental and social issues of our times.  The Wild Salmon Carnival invites its participants to protect and defend the seas to ensure our symbiotic relationship with wild salmon continues.  The answers to the complex environmental and social issues we are facing require that we use art as a tool to see the world from various perspectives and come together to imagine a better world creatively.

Works Cited

Carrasco, R., Monferrer, M., & Tarditi, A. (2016). Exploring links between empowerment and community-based arts and cultural practices: perspectives from Barcelona practitioners. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 20(3), 229-245, DOI: 10.1080/13603116.2015.1047659.

Ewing, R. (2010). The arts and australian education: Realising potential.Camberwell, Vic: ACER Press.

Ladd, A. E. (2011). Feedlots of the sea: Movement frames and activist claims in the protest over salmon farming in the pacific northwest. Humanity & Society, 35(4), 343-375. doi:10.1177/016059761103500402.

Marcuse, H. (1978). The aesthetic dimension: Toward a critique of marxist aesthetics.London: Macmillan Publishers Limited.

Martineau, J. (2015). Creative combat: Indigenous art, resurgence, and decolonization.

Miles, M. (2016). Eco-aesthetic dimensions: Herbert marcuse, ecology and art. Cogent Arts & Humanities, 3(1), doi:10.1080/23311983.2016.1160640.

Nossel, S. (2016). Introduction: On “artivism,” or art’s utility in activism. Social Research, 83(1), 103-105.

Serra, V., Enríquez, M., & Johnson, R. (2017). Envisioning Change Through Art: Funding Feminist Artivists for Social Change. Development , 60(1-2), 108- 113. doi:10.1057/s41301-017-0139-0.

20/20 Vision: Rooted in Indigenous Ecological Knowledge & Social Justice

Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty

20/20 Vision – Rooted in Indigenous Ecological Knowledge & Social Justice

As we enter 2020, facing a complex web of existential crises defined by climate change, capitalism and colonial rule, an Indigenous lens is ever more critical to understanding the interwoven strategies we need to untangle our children’s futures.  

To be able to look into the future with 20/20 vision, we need to learn from our past, and centering Indigenous ecological knowledge, wisdom and values (IEK) will allow us the clearest line of sight for tackling, and adapting to the storms, floods, fires, and droughts headed our way. IEK –  humanity’s oldest living memories, would also be our best guide for a much-needed just transition towards a regenerative economy that serves to heal, restore and revitalize our lives, lands and food systems. 

All over the world, Indigenous songs and stories of subsistence hunting, fishing, farming and gathering have survived centuries of struggle against forces of colonial violence and dispossession. These stories provide future generations the best pathways for overcoming the “dig, burn, drive, dump” industrial paradigm causing climate change and ecological collapse. As Naomi Klein identifies in her book – This Changes Everything, “It is primarily such cultures that have kept this alternate way of seeing the world alive in the face of the bulldozers of colonialism and corporate globalization.”

For the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty (WGIFS), the strategic purpose of intergenerational sharing of IEK is defined by the complex beauty of the  natural systems that nourish us. “Our work centers the health and wellbeing of all life, including salmon, moose, elk and other people, plants and animals we rely on for our food,” said Dawn Morrison, Founder/Curator of the WGIFS. “The best way we can defend our grandchildren’s future is to protect, conserve and restore the health of the forests, fields and waterways where we hunt, fish, farm and gather our food,” she added.

Today, these forests, fields and waterways are under attack from a host of destructive industries such as mines, oil and gas pipelines, as well as the proliferation of toxic chemicals and loss of biodiversity caused by plantation forestry, industrial agriculture, and open-net fish farms. 

The WGIFS stands in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and Secwepemc Tiny House Warriors in their resolve to stop the federal and provincial governments and corporations building pipelines that threaten our communities, culture, water, land and food systems. Our front line activists are also concerned about the increasing incidences of violence against women and children living in close proximity to the man camps being set up for constructing these oil and gas pipelines. 

In the spirit of Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela who called for Rainbow People to unite in a post-apartheid South Africa, and the Rainbow Coalitions of the 1960’s that called for revolutionary solidarity across black, brown, Indigenous and poor white communities, we invite all peoples to stand with Indigenous communities on the front lines of stopping the widespread destruction of our forests, fields and waterways. We urge you to join us in powerful alliance to serve the Earth and all creation – guided by principles of Indigenous Food Sovereignty,” stated Morrison.

Media Contacts:

Dawn Morrison, Founder/Curator,

Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty:                                      778.879.5106

Ananda Lee Tan, Communications Support

Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty                                       778-875-0696


A celebration of the spirit of wild salmon.

Swim with us!

From the Salish Seas to the Fraser Canyon:  Coast Salish territory to Nlaka’pamux and St’at’imc territory (Lytton and Lillooet)

Self-organize all travel, meals and accommodation.

Save the Dates: July 5 – 9th, 2019

For more detailed travel times and locations visit the Travel Itinerary tab and Facebook page.



Dawn Morrison,,

Wilson Mendes,

A celebration of the spirit of wild salmon!

The idea for the Wild Salmon Caravan was ‘spawned’ at the Wild Salmon Convergence in 2014, a think tank that brought together Indigenous fisher/folk, researchers, lawyers, and activists to discuss issues, situations and strategies concerning the record low numbers of wild salmon returning to the spawning grounds.

Wild salmon are our most important Indigenous food and cultural and ecological keystone species in the forests, fields and waterways where Indigenous peoples persist in some of the most sustainable hunting, fishing, and gathering strategies of humanity.

Inspired by the long legacy of political activism upheld by Indigenous peoples throughout colonization, the Wild Salmon Caravan is a community arts-based engagement in wild salmon issues. The intention of the WSC is to nurture the creative energy that wild salmon have inspired through the ages, and affirm inter-tribal relationships that are the foundation of Indigenous trade and fisheries knowledge systems. The collaboration and creative energy will serve to educate, inform, and transform the darkness surrounding the industrial storm that is endangering wild salmon.

In a similar spirit as the world-renowned Mardi Gras festival, we invite the Rainbow Nation (people of all colours) to join us in lively and colourful expressions of our love for wild salmon. We invite Indigenous Peoples to wear cultural regalia at ceremonies, feasts, and walks for wild salmon, and hope to see costumes, banner, placards, clothing and imagery inspired by diverse cultures and artists in the events community soon to a community near you.

Stone Soup Festival: Brittania Community Centre (Vancouver), May 11th
Farm 2 School Spring Celebration: Xpey School (Vancouver), May 30th
‘Q’emcín 2 Rivers Remix: Nlaka’pamux Territory (Lytton), July 6th & 7th
Sustenance Festival: Roundhouse Community Centre (Vancouver), September 15th – 28th
Koksilah Music Festival: Providence Farm (Duncan), September 6th – 8th
Kamloops Art Gallery Exhibit and Let’s Talk about Wild Salmon Forum (Kamloops), dates TBA
Arts Builds and Wild Salmon Caravan Garden –Strathcona Fieldhouse (Vancouver), dates TBA

Visit our Facebook page for more up to date information:

Swim with us! Get involved in #WSC2019

For information on how to get involved contact:

Dawn Morrison @

Lori Snyder sharing wisdom

“You know when we’re tasting that we are awakening something inside of us, right?

I like to remind people that wherever you go travelling, you eat the local foods there. There’s something about that experience that makes it really rich. So why not bring that here to our own locality and honour this food? Honour these traditions, this wisdom that’s been imparted, grown on this land forever.

We’re going through this time of ‘let’s get truthful and honest and let’s have a conversation and share what has happened on this land.’ All across Turtle Island. I think that’s where our Reconciliation comes to: the food. Really honouring what has been here long before we as people were here.”

– Lori Snyder –

Thoughts from Secwepemc Matriarch, Bernice Heather.

it is art, it is caring for and protecting Wild Salmon and waters in keeping in living in harmony with Nature, it is the Rainbow Tribe working together with FN, it is renewing our kinship ties all along the way, it is creating awareness amongst the youth in schools, it is problem-solving, it is Spiritual, it brings the generations together, it brings everyone who works with Wild salmon together, it is ancestral and contemporary at the same time, it raises the vibrations for the protection of Wild salmon and waters through drumming and signing, it brings us all together in the telling of the stories of our water people, it brings communities together from the Salish Sea to the Spawning grounds of the Sockeye Salmon. It is a Movement, it comes from the heart, it is a celebration, it is feasts, it is sharing, it is Family. IT IS SACRED!


Photo by Murray Bush