Yee eedé tooshí áa. [We sing to you.]
Directed by Katelyn Stiles in collaboration with Louise Brady
Cinematography and Editing: Katelyn Stiles
currently being screened at Anchorage Museum in the exhibit "Protection: Adaptation and Resistance"
Tlingit Kiks.ádi women of Sitka, Alaska are known as Kaxatjaa Sháa [Herring Ladies] and are responsible to the Pacific Herring. This reciprocal relationship originates from an oral history of the first woman to call to the Herring with song and dance. Kiks.ádi people have harvested Herring eggs sustainably for millennia, stewarding breeding grounds, and defining kinship relationships to human and more -than-human relatives through embodied practices such as song, dance, observation, harvest, distribution, story-telling, and ceremony. Pacific Herring are a keystone-cultural species which wildlife such as salmon, whales and sea birds depend on. Their critical decline creates a threat to Indigenous ways of life and food webs in the Pacific, acting as a barometer of the effects of climate change and extractive colonial economies.
This film centers testimony and embodied knowledge of Herring Ladies, who are leading the movement to protect our way of life and our Herring relatives from extractive state-managed commercial fisheries. Through song, dance, harvest, protest, and oral testimony, this film connects our oral history to the recent creation of the Herring Lady Robes to focus on Indigenous innovation and survivance.
My filmmaking mehods are guided by three Indigenous-led and Indigeniety-centered concepts: (1) Kanaka Hawai’i scholar Renee Paulani Louis’s concept of “Performance Cartography,” in which Indigenous epistemologies are mapped through song and dance; (2) Chumash scholar Deborah Mirandah’s theorizations of the “body as an archive”; and (3) Unangax scholar Eve Tuck’s call to move away from “damage-centered” research. In this way, my project privileges Indigenous narratives of survivance by centering Kiks.adi women’s testimony as disruptions to colonial narratives of erasure via a dense video archive of embodied knowledges. Herring Lady relationalities with and responsibilities to Herring unsettle Eurocentric and Eurological scientific methods of objectivity and human-centered research goals.
As a Herring Lady who grew up away from my ancestral homelands, this work is intimately intertwined with my active participation in becoming a Herring Lady through protocols and performances that enact what Dakota scholar Kim TallBear calls “standing with” my human and more-than-human relations. My methods are informed by Ojibwe scholar Sonya Atalay’s community-based participatory research done with, by and for Indigenous communities and Audra Simpson’s "ethnographic refusal." Through refusal of extractive documentation, my methods of filmmaking center relationships and recognizing that not all knowledges are for public consumption. My practice also employs a feminist Tlingit gaze through the camera in multi-directions. This project centers my responsibilites as a Kiks.ádi Herring Lady to better understand how movement and embodied practices are deeply intertwined with the health of our environment.
photo by Caitlin Blaisdell