In October 2314, the tricentennial of the debut of Métis in Space, The Nü Moccasin Telegraph had the opportunity to sit down with Chelsea Vowel and Molly Swain, who recently made waves when they refused the Nobel Peace prize earlier this year for their podcasting contributions to humanity. Notoriously reticent and crotchety, they rarely leave the comforts of their Métis in Spaceship, as it orbits kitaskinaw ôma, so it was a pleasure and a privilege for this reporter to receive their insights and wisdom, as well as to hear a little bit about their temporal travels – already the stuff of legend – that launched the great interplanetary decolonization of 2135.
Reporter: Where did this all begin? What influenced you to create an Indigenous podcast that examined representation and tropes in antiquated 20th and early-21st century media, in the genre formerly known as “science fiction.”*
Chelsea: We recognized that these stereotypes and tropes of Indigeneity in the settler media of the time were significantly contributing to ongoing colonial policies and violence. We knew that naming and discussing these stereotypes was the first step to overcoming them.
Molly: And due to what we now know of space-time quantum mechanics, we knew that Métis in Space had to begin in 2014, because it already had. Reading about yourself in the history books growing up can be a little bit intimidating, but meeting and working on this project was a natural extension of our interests and desires to bring about the Indigenous miyo-wîcêhtowin society which we all now enjoy.
R: Your trip back to 2014 has become the stuff of legend – no one had traveled that far back, and no one would have ever considered going to a time so marked for its violence and whiteness. What was it like when you first arrived?
C: We touched down in a place called “Alberta” by the môniyâwak who ruled it, and it was a grim spectacle.** Beautiful territories turned into cesspools of toxic bitumen sludge and gaping wounds in the earth. Indigenous peoples and the few môniyâwak who allied themselves to the struggle were being systemically ignored and demonized, and as you know the infamous “Economic Disruption and Terrorism Act” of 2015 brought arrests and criminalization of our ancestors to levels not seen since the late-1880s. The federal paramilitary, known as the Are-see-em-pee, and the intelligence service, Seesus, were bloated under their exponentially expanded budgets, and the colonial regime already just a front for the multinational corporate oligarchy.
M: The historical stage was set, as it were. There were many paths laid out in front of us, and the choices were clear: accept neoliberal hell and the continued degradation of the earth and the eventual extinction of the human, animal, and plant nations; or what was known at the time as decolonization – the non-metaphorical return of our lands and the repatriation of Indigenous laws and worldviews as guiding relationships among all living beings. Not to mention the bettering of the overall aesthetic. The time was ripe for Métis in Space. But decolonization could not be achieved without the intimate knowledge of the land and landscape, so we made the decision early on to send ourselves back at the tender age 10, so we could grow up knowing the environment and issues. Chelsea went to rural northern “Alberta,” and I went to the urban south. We realized both of these perspectives would be invaluable in our coming work.
R: It must have been challenging to grow-up in such dark times.
C: It was a real shock to be coming from an Indigenous future and to be thrust back to a time when that was not even considered a possibility. Our ancestors were surviving, and sometimes not surviving, unbelievable violence and hostility from the môniyâwak of the time.
M: One of the hardest things was that the môniyâwak considered themselves to be a peaceful and just people, and did not recognize that their centuries of legislation, policy, and actions had created conditions where Indigenous peoples were dying at astronomical rates. They blamed us for the violence we were experiencing, and enacted increasingly constrictive and patronizing legislation in order to be able to forget about us and justify their regime.
R: Explain a little more about your work: how did the tropes and stereotypes you encountered in science fiction interfere with holistic processes of Indigenous repatriation of lands and laws?
C: We quickly learned that stereotypes of Indigenous peoples were specifically designed to re-create us as mythical, disappearing, and backwards peoples who were stuck in the past, and so could not have a future. The colonial regime’s inability to picture Indigenous peoples as existing into the future meant that all legal and policy decisions were organized around the basic idea that we would not be around for that much longer, and the regime and its corporate puppeteers were simultaneously trying to ensure exactly that by taking the lands, children, and languages of our ancestors.
M: Addressing these tropes on the newly formed pan-global-information-intertransfer-digital-hivemind (PGIIDH) meant infiltrating and asserting a media presence that contradicted colonial expectations of our imminent demise.*** We let these pre-miyo-wîcêhtowin dystopian overlords know that reports of our deaths were greatly exaggerated. A large number of other Indigenous voices were also rising at the time, using the PGIIDH, as well as more widespread ancient technologies such as “television,” “books,” and “speaking tours.” The intersection of grassroots, academic, professional, traditional, educational, and future-space groups and projects inverted colonial discourses, which up to that point were led by non-Indigenous people, and resulted in us taking that space and dialogue back from the môniyâwak to create and imagine our own futures. We were talking not just to the regime, which we knew would never undermine its own power and listen to us, but to one another, building relationships of resistance and our capacities for sustained, supported, and reciprocal decolonizing. miyo-wîcêhtowin was on the horizon.
R: How did you get to askîwipimâcihowascikêwina?
C: First we had to get rid of the concept of “reconciliation.” It may seem outdated and bizarre that a concept that allowed môniyâwak to reconcile their own guilt and past actions was being so strongly advocated for, but at the time there was a huge push to deny Indigenous presence and histories in order to access dwindling fossil fuel resources. The semi-secret corporate hegemony wanted to reconcile and justify its own actions and policies without making any real changes.
M: askîwipimâcihowascikêwina, a relationship articulated by nêhiyawak Elders of the time, set into place arrangements for livelihood, living and evolving treaty rights that re-established an Indigenous reciprocal obligation model of governance among sovereign peoples, instead of the Western liberal individual rights model so adored by the post-Enlightenment môniyâwak of the time.****
R: 2018-2021 saw the kihci-tâpwêwin, during which Métis in Space played a pivotal role in uncovering and confronting colonial deceptions and destroying all possible moves to innocence. Could you elaborate on the kihci-tâpwêwin and its aftereffects?
C: It was an incredibly tense and uncomfortable time, when in the space of a few short years, everyone living on these lands had to face their own complicity in globalized colonial violence. This included addressing anti-Blackness, Orientalism, and the ways that white-supremacy had pitted racialized peoples against one another to uphold its own primacy.
M: This scared the shit out of the môniyâwak! The fearmongering that took place during and immediately after the tâpwêwin was outrageous.
R: What were some of the myths and racist tactics with which you were faced?
C: My personal favourite was the “decivilizing campaign” myth, which insisted that people would have to live without “European inventions” such as toilet paper – that really incensed a lot of setter anxieties! They also said everyone was going to lose their jobs, no one would be able to support their loved ones; so Indigenous existence was a direct threat to their families!
M: There was also the “forced exile” myth – that Indigenous resurgence would lead to the banishment of all môniyâwak and the seizure of their assets – essentially what they had done to us, we would do the them the first chance we got.
R: And that is what led to over 6.5 million people establishing the first Martian colonies.
C: The great irony of their exodus, which they now know as the “Great Persecution,” and we know as the “Upsettling,” was that they ended up living in conditions so much worse than anything they could have envisioned in their worst “decivilizing” propaganda, while all those who remained created conditions wherein we all thrived. This of course led to the Bailing Out of 2099 where we shipped desperately needed supplies of toilet paper plants and space blankets to our estranged cousins.
M: That relationship, as we all know, remains strained, as demonstrated by their most popular commentary transmission still being shown on the ancient “television:” the long-running “Percival Waxbottom’s Nostalgia Hour,” now in its 115th season, starring Percival Waxbottom’s reanimated corpse.
R: What precipitated your return to the 24th century, and what have you been up to since?
C: The history books tell us that Métis in Space records its final episode in 2025, and that Molly and I return to the year 2300 from then. Things were well on their way to miyo-wîcêhtowin, and our comrades and ancestors had things well in hand, our work was done. Our return to this century was a whirlwind of celebrations, awards, and Extra-Sensory Perception Network appearances. In spite of the hardships and struggles we faced in the 21st century, it was the limelight that really burned us out.
M: We designed, built, and moved into the Métis in Spaceship in 2310 to enjoy an early retirement, have the occasional glass of wine, and watch some classic science fact films. We spend many an hour watching over kitaskinaw ôma, knowing that balance has finally been restored and that all our relations are taking care of one another.
R: So why did you turn down the Nobel Peace Prize?
C: After our time in the 21st century, we could not have our names beside that of Stephen Harper, who won the prize in 2015 for his work establishing economic “peace” by declaring environmental martial law.*****
M: More importantly, we cannot take sole credit for the work of thousands of dedicated and courageous neechies who defied unspeakable violence, colonial erasure, and dehumanizing stereotypes. Any recognition we receive truly belongs to them.
R: One last question, is there anything you miss from the 21st century?
C: For me, the sheer amount of meat we were able to eat back then – you could get a breakfast with three different kinds of animals fried in the fat of a fourth animal. Factory farming was horrific, but so, so delicious.
M: That’s a tough one, but I would have to say new Beyoncé albums and KFC.******
R: That was indeed a dark time in history, before healthy relationships with our animal relatives had been reestablished. I am trying not to judge you, but that is disgusting. On the other hand, Beyoncé’s last album, released in 2069, Party Like It’s ‘69, is still considered one of the greatest classical pieces of all time. ay-ay Molly and Chelsea for your time, you are personal heroes of mine, and listening to episodes of Métis in Space in History class sparked my interest in historical journalism. If it’s not too awkward, would you both mind signing my butt so I can get it tattooed?
C & M: Of course, nothing would make us happier!
* Term officially changed to “science fact” in the 2185 edition of the OED.
** môniyâwak is an anachronistic term for niwâhkômâkamak that loosely translates to European-descended “white people.”
*** Colloquially known at the time as the “Internet.”
**** Articulated in Treaty Elders of Saskatchewan, 2000.
***** Relegated to a mere footnote in history, Harper was the colonial figurehead of the corporate oligarchy in the early-mid 21st century.
****** Kentucky Fried Chicken, known for its salt, grease, and general deliciousness.