Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 4    May, 2011

Digital Natives
Condensed by Native Village

British Columbia: In 2009, the Skwxw7mesh Nation installed an electronic advertising billboard at Burrard Street Bridge in Vancouver.  The 3 x 10 meter billboard is on their Kitsilano Indian reserve No. 6.
The billboard flashes a static advertisement every 10 seconds. In April the ads included messages about Native issues:.

"First Nations. We are not a stereotype."

"Not gone... not lost! Still connected."

"Riot 1492."

"My great-grandfather hid his ceremonial regalia in a cave that we have long since lost track of.  Who wants to go spelunking? "

The text messages were part of Digital Natives, a public art project curated by Lorna Brown and Clint Burnham.  Using tweets, Native and non-native writers and artists across North America contributed to the messages.
Burnham says advertising on native land seems to trigger confusion or even outright racism. 
"It's like non-native people don't want to be reminded there still is native land around us," he said.  "Or that native people shouldn't use their land to make money."
The land on which the billboard stands is also controversial. It reflects a history of colonialism and the taking of lands from many First Nations, including the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh (Burrard)
This Indigenous history is often minimized or erased from stories of Vancouver's development:

False Creek was the site of an ancient village the Musqueams called hənqeminəm as səna?qw and the Skwxw7mesh called Senkw.

In 1869, the colonial government set aside 37 acres for a reserve at the creek's mouth. The land was for all Aboriginal people living there.

In 1877, they allotted the land to the Squamish alone.

The next 100 years brought railway lines, the Burrard Street bridge, and various leases.

By 1965, the entire reserve had been sold off.

In 2002, the Squamish Nation regained a small section of the earlier reserve. Today it's called Kitsilano Indian reserve No. 6.

Digital Natives coincided with Vancouver's 125th Anniversary. The brief messages related to location and history, digital language and translation, and of the city itself.
Brown and Burnham say those who contributed to the Digital Natives Art Project include "a dream team of artists and writers," "a crackerjack team of technicians," and many others.

Youth contributed also. Burnham said the kids saw a direct political message they want to convey. Two messages are about paying more attention to what marginalized youth need:

"Keep resources and programs like EASY and OASIS going strong in communities" 

"Programs like the East Side Aboriginal Space for Youth (EASY) shouldn't be shut down so we can have the support to succeed in life."


Digital Natives was also part of an exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

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