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Cheyenne Naatoiyiki McGinnis | Artist of the Month | April 2023

Naatoiyiki, aka Cheyenne McGinnis, is a non-binary Niitsitapi individual who grew up for the majority of her life in Kainaiwa, the Blood Tribe. They have been practicing various forms of art for over 15 years and call themselves a multi-media contemporary conceptual artist. They are mainly inspired by the work of their peers, the Indian 7, Carl Beam, and other artists who tend to push boundaries in their work. They also own the small consulting and arts business called Indig Busy-ness which has been in operations since 2016.

They have curated in Vancouver in their career, been a part of shows in 3 cities including Calgary, Vancouver, and Lethbridge, and currently has 3 public art installations in and around the Blood Tribe. Her work has been purchased by Alberta Health Services when they were selected to complete the illustrations for the Blood Tribe Addictions Framework in 2019, they have a permanent display in the new Red Crow College, selected for 2 OKI artwork signs in the city of Lethbridge, and is still featured on the Telus Building in downtown Lethbridge.

Naatoiyiki is interested in the intersections between Arts & Business, and also works as an Arts Consultant, offering sliding scale consultations to artists of all types. They also offer an annual bursary from 2021 to Artists of all types through Indig Busy-ness each Fall.

They have been working in the theme of Indigenous Futurisms for some time now, but also practices more traditional forms of art, and even learned Coast Salish Weaving technique from Chief Janice George during her time on the West Coast. Naatoiyiki enjoys working in a variety of mediums, as to not lock themselves down to one medium or one concept. Naatoiyiki enjoys pushing the boundaries of what it means to create Indigenous Art in today’s day and age, and is very excited to be the featured Artist for Making Treaty 7 for the month of April.

Art Descriptions

A Colonial Business History (2016)

Acrylic on canvas board.

Naatoiyiki painted this piece in 2016 after graduating University and spending a lot of time learning from the Coast salish peoples of the West Coast about their histories and colonization in the territory. They wanted to honour these people through this piece and speak to history and its resulting effects on our people. Depicts a Hudson Bay Point Blanket that is covered in Blacks, Reds, Whites, and Yellows. You can also faintly make out two small handprints. This piece asks us to consider the darker history of the Hudson Bay Company, the oldest corporation in Canada. What has their company been built upon? The use of the blanket also asks us to consider the history of smallpox, the loss of the Coast Salish Wooly Dog and the resulting genocide that occurred during the fur trade in what is now known as Canada.

Untitled (2021)

Acrylic collage on canvas board.

In this piece inspired by the work of Carl Beam, Naatoiyiki looks to the past to determine present happenings and future prospects. A broken status card reveals the truth behind broken treaties, particularly the Treaty #7 associated with the lands where Naatoiyiki calls home. Naatoiyiki's ancestors rarely had the opportunities they have today, and these sacrifices are never far behind in Naatoiyiki mind: they understand the role the church played in her grandparents and parents lives and understand how hard they've tried to make a better life for their children. While rez life was tough, Naatooyiki chooses to focus on the beautiful parts of her childhood as an adult and forever will be thankful to the BloodTribe for giving her a sense of identity as a Blackfoot Womxn.

Flip the Script (2016)

Digital photography and manipulation.

This digital piece was created in 2016 after Naatoiyiki was visiting the Glenbow Museum. This a photo from the exhibit that highlights the Old Sun Residential School in Siksika, where some of Naatoiyiki's relatives likely attended given that she is Blackfoot.

Naatoiyiki never shared this image until 2021 when the news of a unmarked grave came to light, as it was a personal reflective piece on how their blood lines still flow through her - it was a statement that we are still here and a reminder to Natoyihkii of these effects on her own life.

Naatoiyiki decided to juxtapose this image by flipping it upside down - flipping the script on the "history of these schools", flipping the script to something bigger than just a memory. Natoyihkii wants people to consider through this image that our worlds remain turned upside down from the effects of these schools, but we are trying to rectify the intergenerational trauma. It is also a reminder that there remain so many children in care that need to be brought home.

Relative Experience (2023)

Digital art.

Using Glenbow Archives photographs of her relatives and a photo from the 70s of Naatoiyiki’s mother, Naatoiyiki explores the relative experience of being a Blood Womxn. Being a Blood womxn can mean so many different things to so many different people, and given that Naatoiyiki grew up in Kainai but is a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, she wanted to further explore the meaning behind family in this piece, given that she is not very closely linked to her Cree culture due to colonialism, lateral violence, and circumstance. Naatoiyiki grew up immersed in Blackfoot Culture, and this gave her a sense of identity growing up and to this day, she continues to explore the culture through ceremony, learning, and immersion. Learning who you are as a Blood person can be a life long journey, and Naatoiyiki wanted to pay homage to her relatives and honour the blood lines that exist through her maternal side. Also featured in this piece is the 3 colours of ochre that the Blood Tribe use in face painting, a ceremonial practice of the Blackfoot.

You can follow Naatoiyiki on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok @naatoiyiki and @indigbusyness

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