Chippewa Valley Equality Initiative
Community Spotlight: Caitlin Newago
Author: Caitlin Newago
Boozhoo, my name is Caitlin Newago. I'm an Ojibwe woman coming from the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. In addition to being an artist and business owner, I am also a chronically ill LGBT+ single mother and activist.
I own Bizaanide'ewin Beadwork & Supplies, which I founded in early 2016. I have been running this business alone and creating art since then. I originally started my ventures in self employment in order to gain resources to leave a toxic relationship. I continued to work and grow my business as I left the relationship and started my life over from scratch.
This business has grown and evolved with me- what started as a beading supply business has evolved into an artistic and informational hub regarding contemporary indigenous issues. By combining my own artistic style influenced by traditional Ojibwe designs and mediums with political slogans and information, I hope to spread awareness about indigenous struggles against settler colonialism and the continued cultural genocide we are still facing today.
Indigenous peoples are grossly underrepresented in all spaces and forms of media, I hope to do my part in changing that while simultaneously fostering my own artistic spirit. We are often seen as ancient mythological peoples, many don't realize we are still here fighting for our culture- and frankly, our dignity! Our women are being stolen and murdered at a horrific rate (Google the Red River in Winnipeg, Canada for example) and our lands are still being desecrated in capitalist corporate interests (Google Line 3 and Mauna Kea.) We are fighting to have our very humanity recognized and respected.
I feel strongly that art is a vital decolonial tool in making a change in our settler colonialist society that we still live in today. I've lived in Eau Claire for nearly a year now, and have definitely noticed the indigenous erasure within the Chippewa Valley - ironic given the name, isn't it?
Acknowledging and respecting the lands on which we live on is a good start to mending the relationship we all have with indigenous peoples. Confronting and removing racist rhetoric, especially within the Eau Claire Area School District, will be important. Uncomfortable conversations must be had, with open minds and a willingness to look past one's defensive armor. Progress will never happen without this vital first step. Along with this, making the effort to seek out resources to learn about indigenous peoples- FROM indigenous peoples, will also be required. To help all readers get started with this process, I've included a few links with this post.
Caitlin Newango (Bizaanide'ewin Beadwork & Supplies)