Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa
Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa
Hadassah GreenSky is a Waganakising Odawa (Little Traverse Bay Bands) from Detroit, Michigan. She wears many hats as an activist, community organizer, curator, cultural worker, and Indigenous futurist working as a visual artist, jazz singer, musician, dancer (both modern and powwow), bead artist, seamstress, graphic designer, photographer, videographer, and model. She was featured in Vogue for a photo taken of her and her relatives atop the base of the empty Columbus statue in Detroit.
In Detroit, she helped develop a music festival called “Vibes with The Tribes” and a market she founded called “The Waawiyaatanong NDN Market,” both aimed at serving and uplifting Native artists. In 2021, she began developing a documentary called “The Red Ghetto Project,” a story about the Native neighborhood of Detroit from the 1940s-1970s. She recently began developing a project expanding on the market called “The Epangishmok Exchange,” a Native artist exchange between The Great Lakes and Northern California.
Currently, she is collaborating with SNAG magazine and The NEST to further develop her skills. She splits her time between California and Michigan to better learn and grow her vision of starting a communal trade network and sustainable community artist hub.
“‘Waawiyaatanong’ means ‘where the curved shores meet,’ also known as Detroit/Windsor, a sacred stopping point for my people, the Anishinaabek Nation. The woodland-style painting depicts animals, humans, and spirits within the dream world. Traditional stories are interwoven into an urban landscape to show an unforgotten world below the pavement. Northern Lights pay homage to my ancestors, where the name ‘GreenSky’ comes from, and the turtle, my clan; the crane represents leadership; the sturgeon illustrates my people’s survival through harsh winters; and the crooked trees represent post-contact resistance to destructive logging. The land the city lies on lives on, despite modern technologies. Characters are interconnected through orbs and spirit lines, illustrating their interconnectedness and connection to the land.” ―Hadassah GreenSky
What does the idea of “justice for Native communities” mean to you?
To me, justice for our communities means giving a spotlight to the Native voice, specifically the dreamers and the medicine people, the ones who know the old ways. It means going backwards on the old trail to move forward because very few Natives are choosing to live traditional lives. Justice is setting things right, going back to earth-based practices. There is a prophecy among my people that a new people, made up of traditional Natives, will rise up and go back on the trail to pick up the pieces of our old ways and awaken everyone else.
What do you think needs to happen in the world to achieve justice for Native communities?
Capitalism and colonialism have led to collective narcissism, which has brought us away from the idea of community, which is how we have always survived. We need communal voices instead of individual voices. It’s going to take the death of self-promotion to really come back to communities. Also, power systems need to be deconstructed and returned to the tribal village systems. New treaties must be made between all the hoops of the circle. Earth-based practices will need to see a resurgence. The earth is heading into purification time, and we must return to the tried-and-true basic means of human survival ― the village.
How do you express justice through your artwork?
My art comes from old stories, dreams, and visions; seeing through a lens of what is and was, the animals, the plants, that which helped the humans. A lot of my art is based on the idea that even though we have built on top of the earth, the living earth is still there. Even though we’ve tried to control and manipulate the natural landscape around us, it doesn’t mean that the spirit is gone. We can still talk to the land, talk to the water. Everything has a spirit. We still have a relationship with the spirits no matter how chaotic the world is, no matter how far capitalism and human greed have gone.
Is there anything else you would like to share about Native justice and your artwork?
I’m one of the very few activists and water protectors from my community. I am part of the “Oil & Water Don’t Mix” movement that is working to keep oil out of the Great Lakes. I just created a piece that was inspired by the prophecy of an older woman from our tribe. She said that the straits of Mackinac and down into Little Traverse territory would be the site of the last battle between the great snake and the thunderbirds, and my art depicting this battle has been made into a t-shirt for the movement. I wish more people would become involved. I don’t think they realize what would happen if we didn’t have access to clean drinking water.