They’re relatable, they’re healing, and they’re hilarious: this week I am writing to you about the incredible world of Native memes.
Why? I am so tired and ready for a second reading week, and I know you’re feeling the same way. So let’s take a break to have some fun. Skoden.
Ah, Native meme culture. The one avenue of pan-Indigeneity I can get behind. It doesn’t matter what nation you are from, if you were colonized by the likes of Sir John A, you’re probably opening Instagram or Twitter to laugh at a real deadly meme poking fun at reconciliation.
Basically, Native meme culture offers us an outlet to heal with humour. In an article by Lenard Monkman for CBC, he reports that Native meme culture provides an opportunity for Native people to weigh in on Canadian society and politics with humour, education, and the occasional jab at politicians of both Canadian and Indigenous descents.
Of course, as a subset of meme culture in general, it’s a way for Native people to connect with each other. The difference is that with Native memes, it’s connecting through the mutual experiences of trauma and frustration at settler-colonial society.
I think almost every culture on Earth uses humour as a coping mechanism to help get through rough times. That’s especially true for contemporary Indigenous cultures, and that’s just what these memes are all about.
Meme content varies, but some general themes include auntie worship, settlers and all that jazz, Trudeau and that gang, religion and THAT gang, pipeline nonsense, reconciliation (whatever that is), rez life, our collective sacred child Baby Yoda, #LandBack, and language.
On the language note, there’s one Instagram user who’s really championed Mohawk memes in the language.
Believe it or not, there’s a CBC article on him too. (CBC, we know you love Native memes, you can’t deny it now). Jessica Deer reports that John Henhawk finds memes can be a fun way to spark interest in learning language. Here’s a good one below:
Of course, much of our meme madness comes out of popular events in the media. You should have seen #NativeTwitter when the Notre Dame was burning, oof, was there ever a moment between us and our qualms with the Church.
As you know, what’s going on right now is the #Wetsuweten injustice, and there’s a bunch of spicy content that claps back at Canada, CGL, and the RCMP for their role in all of that, while patting the backs of radicals on the frontlines.
Indigenous memers don’t just exist online, either, but they’re playing major roles in their communities. @Nuniyeh on Instagram recently did an interview with APTN about being on when the RCMP raided camps. @Skodenne has also been posting updates from Wet’suwet’en territory. These memers are involved beyond social media, which adds another important element to Native meme culture: it doesn’t just exist online. It exists wherever contemporary Indigenous youth cultures exist.
For example, a couple months back, “No U” was kind of big across the Internet. You know the one, the classic Uno reverse card heroically pulled out of a back pocket to effectively bitch-slap. In November I was inspired by it, and beaded it. (Beading is a form of art very prominent in Native cultures.) By taking a meme from the general Internet/meme culture and recreating it with an Indigenous artform, I effectively “Indigenized” the meme, and it’s very real. I mean, I’m holding it in my own hand. (Also, it’s still for sale…. Holla.)
Another absolutely legendary example of an Indigenized meme inspired by general meme culture is when @ijotikak on Instagram published a remix of Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road called ‘Old Bead Store:’ “Yeah, I’m gonna take my aunty to the old bead store, gonna buy ‘til I can’t no more … I got the beadwork in my lap, needle is attached…”. Yet another great example of Native meme culture in song form is when A Tribe Called Red made a remix of Romeo Saganash saying our boy Justin Trudeau doesn’t give a fuck about Indigenous rights. It’s called ‘The OG’ and it’s a BOP.
Just like the rise and fall of “No U” in general meme culture, Indigenous memes have their own waves of popularity. Baby Yoda, anyone? Yeah, he’s ours now. We’ve claimed him. He’s tradish. Actually, we’ve got a bunch of pins featuring baby Yoda saying SKODEN at the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre. Pick one up and there you go, you are a proud supporter of Indigenous meme culture.
I could go on about how many belly-laughs I give when I see some quality content that reminds me, you know what, we’re in a shitty situation, but at least we can laugh at it while we try for the #LandBack revolution. That has to count for something.
If you’re intrigued and want more content, here are some sick Native warriors on the meme frontlines of Instagram: @spaal7, @similo_o, @officialadambeach, @since.time.immemeorial, @ijotikak, @skonedog.millionaire, @emondngirl666, @nuniyeh, @dadfights, @diyinmemeniliinii, @nativegothgirlsonly, @dbj4m3, and @skodenne.
Part of an ongoing series by the Indigenous Student Association