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Empowering Ourselves: Indigenous Youth Understanding Structural Violence Using Media Arts Justice

The Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN), an organization by and for Indigenous youth that works throughout the United States and Canada across issues of sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice, commissioned an eight session workshop with Indigenous identified youth in Edmonton, Alberta from 4 March 2014 to 3 June 2014. The project was co-facilitated by a NYSHN Youth Facilitator and Media Arts Justice and Projects Coordinator, both of whom are self-identified Indigenous youth, from a strength based, harm reduction, critical pedagogy, and Indigenous feminist framework.

NYSHN’s epistemology and peer to peer praxis investigates two dynamics of structural violence: that Indigenous youth bodies are spaces impacted by structural violence; and that most spaces in which Indigenous youth bodies exist are mediated by systems of oppression and directly related to their experiences of lived violence. Our project interrogated specific forms of structural violence that marginalize Indigenous youth by constructing their bodies as disposable and criminal. This included confronting (settler) colonialism as an historic and ongoing process premised on the erasure of indigeneity and acquisition of Indigenous land, racism as an investment in whiteness, police violence as an extension of state violence, homo and transphobia as regulators of Indigenous sexual/gender expression, environmental violence as simultaneously affecting Indigenous bodies and land, and the Child Welfare System and criminal (in)justice system as segregationist measures to dislocate Indigenous bodies.