Deloria Many Grey Horses-Violich 33 lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She is a proud member of the Kainai Nation – a band of the Blackfoot Confederacy – the Chickasaw and the Yankton Sioux Nations. Deloria is an urban First Nation’s woman dedicated to creating change and advocating for Indigenous Rights through her writing, film, photography, and all other forms of self-expression.
Deloria studied at the University of California, Berkeley and double majored in Native American Studies and Ethnic Studies. Her mom is a residential school survivor and so Deloria has experienced the first hand statistics of First Nations people. She describes herself as a contemporary warrior who uses her passion for equality, words, images, and storytelling to combat the history of injustices for the Canadian Indigenous communities. Deloria’s goal is to one day create a different story for Indigenous peoples – a story that will overflow the forces of humility, courage and compassion!
She is also a mother of a beautiful 21-month-old girl, and in her words ‘didn’t realize how beautiful life was’ until she met her. Deloria says that her daughter has given her the inspiration to reach for her dream of being an advocate and artist. So we decided to ask her a few questions:
What motivated you to deal with the subject of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (#MMIW) in your poetry?
“Over 1200 Indigenous women have gone missing in Canada between 1980 and 2012. The actual numbers might be higher due to gaps in police and government report. This is a violation of Human Rights. As a mother, sister, and aunty I have responsibility to my community and to other Indigenous women. We need to help raise awareness, so we can put an end to this injustice and change the story for future Indigenous women.”
Tell us why you chose this submission?
“I choose this poem because I want to honour the 1200 murdered and missing Indigenous women and their families. It is my clarion call to the Indigenous community and the global community of the beauty, strength and resiliency of us as Indigenous women!”
Why have you chosen the medium of poetry?
“I love poetry and all forms of self-expression. Poetry has a unique and powerful way of helping your voice be heard in a different way. I come from a long generation of residential school survivors and am impacted by intergenerational trauma. Writing takes me through a healing journey and gives me a space to weigh in on issues that impact me. It also gives me a space to celebrate the beautiful aspects of my First Nations cultures and demonstrate resiliency. The arts are beautiful mediums for self-expression because there are no limitations placed on how an individual may express him/herself. This approach is very empowering, as well as, a natural force for reclaiming Aboriginal oral storytelling traditions. It will also provide an outlet for Indigenous artists to connect, create art and continue to demonstrate resiliency.”
What is your process when creating?
“I try not to think too much. My grandfather use to tell me, “The longest journey in life is from your head to your heart.” We need to think more with our hearts and less with our heads. My creativity exists in my emotions and when I can tap into my emotions this is when I get inspired.”
Who are you influenced by? What inspired you and your art?
“I am blessed to have a rich blended family. Family members are my greatest sources of inspiration and each one has given me a unique perspective on the world. For this specific piece my daughter and my mother are my inspiration. We are three generations of Blackfoot women. My mom always talks about how different my daughter’s experience of life will be compared to hers. My mom made the path soft for me and I hope to make the path softer for my daughter. My mom is the strongest woman I know. In the midst of adversity she pushes on and never gives up. She was one of the first Indigenous women to get her Doctorate Degree and her goal in life is to be a good relative. That same tenacious and generous spirit is alive in my daughter and it is my heart’s desire to be a source of inspiration for her.”
What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?
“Feminism is standing up against the injustices inflicted upon all women regardless of their skin colour, culture, and socio-economic status. It’s about creating an equal opportunity for woman, so yes I am a feminist! Many of our Indigenous communities were matriarchal however due to racist based historical government policies, such as the Indian Act our traditional values were severed including the break down our family structures and ultimately placing men above and in front of women. In fact, under the Indian Act only a man could be considered an “Indian”. More and more indigenous women are reclaiming our roles as leaders in our communities. Our grandmothers are encouraging us to pick up our drums and sing our songs.”
Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?
“Yes! European-based mainstream society depicts Indigenous women as dirty squaws or sexualized Pocahontas. As a younger woman I grew up struggling about fitting these images but did not allow myself to internalize these images. As a woman and a member of a minority ethnicity if you stand up for yourself you may be considered too outspoken. When I was in high school I was too scared to speak my truth. It was during my time spent at UC Berkeley that the fire inside me was ignited and I began to share my story. It was a time I staked myself to the ground as an Indigenous woman. I realized the old warrior’s story of staking one to the ground in the midst of the dynamic play of the forces of oppression – the willingness to sacrifice for the life of the people!”
Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?
“I would like to think it’s getting better. The more dialogue we have around inequality for women the more social norms will change.”
What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for etc…..?
“My passion focuses on Indigenous women and Indigenous children. Currently, in Canada there are more Indigenous children in the Child Welfare system than at the height of residential school era. This is another important issue to me. Also, my passion focuses on creating space for different forms of learning, such as art, writing, film, and photography.”
How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?
“It’s the whole reason I create art. It is gentle and beautiful form of resistance and celebration. It is where I get my inspiration.”
What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?
“Just like it was for my ancestors the spirit of art has helped me overcome so many obstacles in my life. Art for me is a connection between my spirit and the Universe – and it is this connection between the spirit and the universe that is most beautiful. When a person is able to tap into that creative space one gets to know his/her true self and begins to actualize his/her true potentiality. It is about living a beautiful life!”
What are your goals as with your art?
“To continue telling my story and creating space for other Indigenous women to tell their stories. I want to encourage and support other Indigenous women to know they are not alone on their journey and to inspire them in such a way as to identify themselves with my work.”
What is your next project or piece that you are working on?
“I’m working on a family photography project. I will be photographing Indigenous families in the Calgary area to contradict the negative stereotypes of First Nations people we see in mainstream society. So many of our community is thriving and raising healthy happy families. I want to showcase this.”
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