more than just flesh: the arts as resistance and sexual empowerment

Masters Thesis - Concordia University

This thesis addresses a long history of colonization and intergenerational traumas still existing today, and the ability that Indigenous performing arts have in addressing sexual health barriers that Northern youth are facing. In this year of Canada’s 150th celebrations there have been several arts initiatives that are working to build confidence and leadership amongst Indigenous youth. As Inuit are facing some of the highest suicide rates in the world, overcrowded housing, lack of mental health resources, high costs of living, intermittent access to reliable internet, intergenerational traumas, food insecurity, and high levels of sexual assault, it is easy to feel hopeless. This thesis focuses on the ability that the arts have in making tangible differences, bringing Indigenous youth into conversations that work through historical colonial suppression, paving new narratives to pass on to future generations, looking at how the arts are being used as a way to inspire what Gerald Vizenor termed as survivance. Focusing predominantly on Qaggiavuut!, an Arctic cultural performing arts group which promotes performance while highlighting noncolonial forms of Inuit self-identity and wellness—with a particular focus on some of the key members of this group whose interest in sovereignty and wellness specifically focuses on Inuit sexual and emotional health, exploration, expression and education. The arts are integral in helping future generations of Indigenous peoples gain confidence and break cycles of intergenerational traumas, thriving through survivance.