Zoe Todd | Prairie Fish Futures

by Darian

Zoe Todd | Prairie Fish Futures

by Darian
April 12, 2017

She:kon! Spring has arrived here in Montreal and is re-energizing everyone.

March 31st, 2017 was the final Future Imaginary Lecture PRAIRIE FISH FUTURES: Métis Legal Traditions and Refracting Extinction. Zoe Todd spoke vibrantly about fish, weaving stories and making connections to current issues with nature and politics.

The lecture opened with Skawennati welcoming Zoe to the territory and Jason introducing her. Zoe Todd is Métis from Amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton) in the Treaty Six Area of Alberta, Canada. She writes about Indigeneity, art, architecture, decolonization and healing in urban contexts. She also studies human-animal relations, colonialism and environmental change in northern Canada.

She started with a “speculative fish-ction” story starring the Ness Namew, an energetic and driven character who carries stories and documents that support her global “anti-colonial journey.” Fish have been witness to all actions taken by humans and have their own ideas about human actions and politics. The story is delivered with enthusiasm and is a delight to listen to in full.

Along with this story Zoe has made illustrations of various fish including the Ness Namew that she showed her captive audience. The images were loose and fun and each fish had their name and a brief background to go with them.

She spoke about sturgeon and how they can live up to 150 years if they’re healthy and what that timeline could encompass. They are now nearly gone from the North Saskatchewan river where she grew up and many other fish are at risk in Alberta and across the globe. With the possible threat of a sixth mass extinction event, what can be learned from the fish that have survived numerous extinction events?

Much like the trunk of a tree can show how many years it lived, the ear bone of a fish can tell the story of that fish it came from. She suggested looking at sturgeon as temporal travelers and to think about the different ways that time can be measured that may not have been considered before.

She spoke about Blackfoot philosopher and scholar Leroy Little Bear and explained that he is a big influence in her work. She also took time to share a friend’s video of fish peacefully swimming below ice and told personal stories that made the audience laugh with her.

Zoe summed up her intentions wonderfully with this quote: “Mostly I want a world where we pay attention to one another and where we pay attention to the water and fish. Where we care for one another and where we disrupt the ways that we’ve normalized violence against lands and waters and humans and more-than-humans. […] The core of my message is that we need to care for one another and we need to care about the fish and we need to think about the way that they’ve inhabited the world because they know so much.”

It was a lively and thought provoking lecture and wrapped up the series nicely. Please take the time to watch the video to hear Zoe’s words in her own voice and to get more in depth with her presentation.