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Tiny Art Houses Stand Up to Pipeline

This week, artists Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch participated in the Tiny House Warriors project, which puts art-covered homes in path of a pipeline

This past week, Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch were the latest artists to participate in the Tiny House Warriors project, which is putting art-covered homes in the projected path of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

“We are building 10 tiny houses, constructing them with volunteer builders to put directly in the path of the Kinder Morgan pipeline,” Kanahus Manuel of the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society tells Canadian Art. Their hope, according to the Tiny House Warriors website, is to “stop the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline from crossing unceded Secwepemc Territory,” to which “our collective free, prior and informed consent—the minimal international standard” has never been provided.

The Tiny House Warriors project got started earlier this fall, when Manuel’s sister and her partner created murals upon the first house in the series. Those murals, Kanahus Manuel says, pictured “coyote stories that speak of our connection to our land and people.”

The house that Belcourt and Murdoch painted with a team of volunteers is the third in the project, and features a large orca image. Orcas are one of the species that could be impacted by the pipeline.

At their art build, which took place November 23 and 24 at Red Gate Arts Society on East Hastings Street in Vancouver, participants also silkscreened banners and flags with images and messages created by Belcourt and Murdoch. Some with images with fishes read, “Stop KM,” while others with a picture of a warrior read, “It Has Begun.”

The banners, as well as the completed tiny house, were used in an anti-pipeline action outside a TD Bank in Vancouver on Friday.

“It was very exciting to participate in this art build with Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch because they are very well known in Indigenous communities and throughout the country—not only for their art, but for their opposition to resource extraction and nuclear waste dumps in their home territories,” says Manuel.

Indeed, Christi Belcourt’s paintings, which reflect her Michif heritage, hang in the Art Gallery of Ontario—and their wide reach has also inspired a Valentino dress as well as an Ela handbag. Sales of the latter help raise money for the Onaman Collective, an Indigenous land-based art initiative sharing traditional language and knowledge with youth. (The Onaman Collective is led by Belcourt, Isaac and Erin Konsmo.)

Belcourt has also been a key lead in developing Walking With Our Sisters, a travelling, collaborative memorial to missing and murdered Indigenous women that involves more than a thousand artists and has been installed across Canada.

“Art is a way we are going to spark this revolution,” says Manuel. “It has begun the revolution of bringing back our culture, our ways, our languages.”

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The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline is an expansion that aims to transport oil from Edmonton to a port in Burnaby. As Global News reported this week, “the expansion would more than triple the pipeline’s daily capacity to 890,000 barrels and increase the number of oil tankers moving through the Georgia Strait,” which is home to a threatened orca population.

The pipeline is facing several regulatory challenges from local governments (including Burnaby and British Columbia) and from First Nations communities. The $7.4-billion pipeline has received the approval, however, of the Canadian government, which Global News reports is seeking a new process to move it forward.

In future, the Tiny House Warriors hope to collaborate with a range of other artists, including hand-poke tattoo practitioners, and more.

“Photo artists and wheatpasting” are on tap soon for the houses, says Manuel. “By using these different creative methods and working with the collaboration of artists, we are bringing a full range of people into this movement to fight the pipeline.”

#tinyhousewarriors @kanahus.tattoos @bomgiizhik_isaac.m

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