Blog: On Making Mistakes, and the Incredible Generosity of Archer Pechawis

Featured image: Archer Pechawis, Billy, Western Front, Vancouver, 2006. Still from performance.

This morning I have been oscillating between tears and laughter. I’m both taken with the absurdity of, and horrified that, on top of the magazine I work for mistakenly publishing that Archer Pechawis had passed away, I misattributed authorship of BigRedDice in the article I wrote for the fall issue of Canadian Art, We Lost an Entire Generation. I’m humbled by Archer’s humility in the wake of it all. I’m also somewhat amused that one of the most prominent figures in Indigneous net art and I could not previously connect because of the generational divide around new technologies. There’s some irony in there, somewhere.

BigRedDice is not solely Archer Pechawis’s work. Though it was curated into Steve Loft’s “Language of Intercession” as such (which is likely why it passed the fact-checking process), and it was taught to me this way in my first new media course as a bright eyed, bushy tailed undergrad in Concordia’s Art History department, BigRedDice is in fact authored by Métis artist Paul Lang, and “morphed into an online art project in collaboration with myself and Lorna Boschman,” as Archer Pechawis has corrected.

This is not an excuse. My misattribution is inexcusable. I should have worked harderdug deeper. I should have done better for the Indigneous art community. I’m sorry. I’m grateful for elders and mentors, like Archer, and others who pulled me close in private, who were generous enough to give me the space to make mistakes and help me grow through this, though you certainly weren’t obliged to. I want to continue listening, speaking softly and making myself worthy of that care.

I’m quickly learning that there’s no rest for otâcimowak (storytellers). I take my responsibility to the Indigneous arts community seriously. I’m that neechie who wrecks with the neechies. In turn, I’m lucky to have nîtisânak who have held me close, mentored me and made me who I am today. My career was built around the kitchen tables of these very people,  who were gracious enough to gift me the incredible legacies of this community we comprise. I only endeavour to be more thorough with every story I am gifted, and honour that trust in ways that I know are recipricol and based in protocol. Above all, I regret deeply that I didn’t take greater care with Archers Pechawis’s, Lorna Boschman’s and Paul Lang’s legacies.

BigRedDice is now hosted on Pechawis’s website, apxo.net. Do check it out because it still resonates today.

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