S1 Episode 7: Decolonize Now! With Nikki Iyolo Sanchez
On this episode of RAVEN (De)Briefs, we’re talking to Nikko Iyolo Sanchez.
We caught up with Nikki on the day that the book, Spirits of The Coast, was released. As a guest editor for the Royal BC Museum, Sanchez worked with diverse contributors, young and old, to explore the magic, myths and ecology of orca whales, resulting in a gorgeous literary and artistic collection that honours and celebrates orca culture.
More about Iyolo Sanchez:
Nikki is a Pipil/Maya and Irish/Scottish academic, Indigenous media maker, and environmental educator. Nikki holds a master’s degree in Indigenous Governance and is presently completing a Ph.D. with a research focus on emerging visual media technology as it relates to Indigenous ontology. Nikki is a doctoral fellow at the Center for Religion and Society at the University of Victoria. She designed and directed the first-ever Indigenous Storyteller edition with Telus STORYHIVE; a project to provide funding and mentorship for 30 emerging Indigenous filmmakers in BC and Alberta. This month, Nikki’s first book, an anthology of the Salish Sea Resident Orca whales will be released by the Royal BC Museum publisher. For the past two years, Nikki has been the David Suzuki Foundation’s “Queen of Green” (queenofgreen.ca) where her work centered on environmental journalism, social media and digital media creation to provide sustainable solutions for a healthy planet, as well as content creation to bring more racial and gender inclusivity into the environmental movement. As an Indigenous media maker, Nikki’s most recent project is the 8-part documentary VICELAND series “RISE” focused on global Indigenous resurgence. RISE was debuted at Sundance in February 2017 and has received global critical acclaim, recently winning “best documentary” at the Canadian screen awards. Nikki is a TEDx speaker, her recent presentation is entitled “Decolonization is for Everyone”. She has been a wilderness guide and environmental educator in the Nuu-chah-nulth territory of Clayoquot Sound for over 10 years, where she was mentored by Nuu-chah-nulth elders Tsahsiits and Qaamina Sam. She is the creator and director of “Decolonize Together” a collective of Indigenous women who offer decolonial and inclusivity workshops and curriculum creation. Decolonize Together has been teaching and facilitating decolonization and anti-oppression training for universities, school boards, corporations, and NGOs for the past five years. Nikki also writes about Indigenous, environmental and social justice issues, her writing has been published in Last Real Indians, Loose Lips Magazine, Intercontinental Cry and The Hundreds.
Before Covid-19 hit, Sanchez played a key role in the occupation of the BC legislature as part of nationwide solidarity actions in support of Wet’suwet’en land and water protectors. This week an historic Memorandum of Understanding was signed between hereditary chiefs of Wetsuweten Nation and the government of Canada. The MOU lays out a framework for recognizing aboriginal title to 22,000 hectares of Wetsuweten land. Yet: the agreement has no bearing on the existing permits issued to Coastal Gas Link, whose pipeline is part of a project to ship fracked gas from eastern BC and Alberta to BC’s north coast, to be liquefied before shipping it overseas. The negotiations which produced the agreement came as a result of years of work on the part of land defenders in Wet’suwet’en territory, culminating in solidarity actions across the country that stopped rail transport, shut down ports and saw an Indigenous occupation of the BC Legislature.
Nikki Iyolo sets a such stellar example of how to hold down an array of responsibilities with fierce grace. Her powerful call to action is for everyone to stand up and be counted in the struggle for justice — for humanity, and for our non-human relations. The book she co-edited, Spirits of The Coast, is soul food for anyone who loves this planet: you can find it online via Royal BC Museum.bc.ca, or – soon – in bookstores everywhere. To get involved with Wet’suwet’en legal challenges aimed at challenging the Coastal Gas Link pipeline, and to learn more about supporting a future grounded in sustainability and justice, visit raventrust.com.