Heartbeat of the Earth (New Society $19.95)
My work cannot avoid being political and sad,” says Wii Muk'willizw (Art Wilson), “because it deals with educating people about the true history of the First Nations.”
Launched in Wilson's hometown of Kispiox, Heartbeat of the Earth (New Society $19.95) is a collection of black and red prints with commentaries to link Northwest Indian symbolism with events concerning indigenous peoples.
The chronological content evolves from the artist's Gitxsan views of Canadian history to topics such as Davis Inlet, Wounded Knee, the Chinese invasion of Tibet, the Zapatistas in Chiapas and the execution of Nigerian activist Ken Saro Wiwa.
“There has been a trail of blatant destruction: massacres, germ warfare, the outlawing of feasts and ceremonies, the destruction of irreplaceable sacred regalia, removing us to residential schools, creating reserves and implementing the Indian Act which set up elected band councils where the chief could even be a white person...
“I feel very strongly that these stories of injustice and resistance need to be recorded in art form because, in general, people have short term or selective memories.”
Primarily focussed on political injustice and resistance, Heartbeat also records one of Wilson's strongest personal memories. At age nine he accompanied Philip Wilson Sr. to a traditional fishing spot where the new American owner of the land stood on an embankment with a gun and ordered them off 'his' land.
“After that, Philip Wilson Senior, a teenager at the time, started singing 'O Canada' and really sang loudly when he got to the part 'our home and NATIVE land...,” Wilson recalls. “That's when shots were fired at us.”
Art Wilson, hereditary chief of the Gitxsan people, is active in the struggle of his people to acquire ownership of their traditional territory. The foreword is by Buffy Saint Marie.