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Q&A: Maddi Grier on IAM, Indigenous Rights and Canada Day

**Maddie Grier of Indigenous Alternative Media, Vancouver Canada**

Throughout Canada, the voices of Indigenous people are profoundly absent from mainstream media. With millions of dollars spent on celebrating Canada’s 150h birthday, it’s no secret that the government wants to hide Canada’s dark history of cultural genocide of entire Indigenous communities. Maddi Grier, a SFU student and advocate for Indigenous rights, is determined to bring attention to their personal stories and lives. She co-founded her own student-run zine called “Indigenous Alternative Media” as a platform for Indigenous artists, photographers, writers, poets, and individuals to showcase their work and draw awareness to Indigenous rights and issues. I had the incredible opportunity to speak to Maddi and learn more about IAM and her personal philosophy to inspire the lives of anyone who wants their voices to be heard.

Why did you start IAM?

It was always a personal dream of mine to be apart of a publication or medium that was in some way revolutionary. I wanted to create noise, make change, most importantly create an avenue for others to feel uplifted and inspired. IAM really sparked from seeing “Indigenous” being not capitalized in publications around SFU and other media outlets and the continuous tokenization of First Nations people. It is so frustrating when we are so intelligent, strong and resilient people doing amazing things to only be called upon for the 4 D’s ‘Drumming, Dancing, Drinking and Death’.

Has anyone inspired and supported you throughout your journey with IAM?  

Definitely! My co-founder/publisher Matt is always the biggest support. Without him, I am not sure it would be possible to create monthly zines as he is so incredibly talented and helps with the triggers of what we write about (vice versa). The community of Indigenous students and people who submit things are so amazing and each bring their own personalities and challenges to every piece they deliver. Personally, my main inspiration is my people (Indigenous communities). Their strength and beauty always drives me to continue to go on everyday. The challenges that Indigenous people face is astonishing and they persevere with such grace, the nation’s will to fight ignites my fuel to continue in the path to resistance.

Since you started IAM, was there anything you found challenging in running a platform around the reality of Indigenous issues?

So far, there is not too much that has challenged us as a team. However, I do find that our people are humble! I see it in myself a lot, while being humble is great it is a little too much at times, most of the time I don’t credit myself enough in the work that I do. I can see that reflecting in Indigenous youth, which causes sometimes a lack of submissions but we all possess gifts. For our whole lives, we have been told by colonial systems that we as Indigenous people are not enough. Yet, at IAM, we are saying give us what you have at any level because you are enough, you are what your ancestors made you to be, hold your head high as we are all Indigenous resistance.

Speaking of Indigenous resistance, what are some some of your strongest beliefs about the government’s “commitment” to reconciliation?

There has not been a “commitment” to “reconciliation”. I think that parading around dancers and taking only the good from Indigenous culture is cruel. It is perpetuating the perspective that as Indigenous people, we are these “decorations”. Meanwhile, there are youth who need proper care because of the lack of cultural sensitivity in social services, who are aging out and becoming homeless, dying in foster care or becoming suicidal because of the poor conditions on some reserves or the stereotypes they face within urban cities. There are reserves that lack proper water, electricity or housing conditions to the point and are comparable to “fifth” world conditions.

Also, I am not celebrating Canada day this year. Or any year for that matter. Rather than find answers for the +4,000 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirited People, the government has failed to allocate resources into giving their families closure. We want to shift these stigmas that paint Indigenous people and culture in a particular light for so long. We want the Canadian government to take accountability into giving our sisters and their families the proper closure and support they need. These are just some of the realities we experience and it is unfortunate that we are denied basic human rights on our own lands. We should not have to worry about our people dying in our own countries everyday.

So in the near future, what do you hope IAM will achieve?

I want to inspire other Indigenous people, youth and students to speak out and be loud. I hope they realize their potentials as it is challenging growing up Indigenous in white academia. I want them to know that we understand they are not alone. Far too often, Indigenous youth feel alone and internalize their feelings of stigma and trauma. However, with IAM, our hope is to reach out and show them we experience a similar feeling and that you matter, you are important to this movement of Indigeneity and you are beautiful beings! We walk in two worlds, that’s something no one can ever take away our ancestors have our backs, always, we hope IAM represents that.

To learn more about IAM and how you can take part of the movement to fight for Indigenous rights and justice, click here.