Indigenous street artists create holy alliances

Detail, mural by Shanna Strauss. Photo by Jody Freeman.

Street art by Dolly Deals, whose father was a “60s scoop” kid – one of the thousands of Indigenous children who were taken from their families without their parents’ consent and put up for adoption. The name “Dolly” comes from the title of the artist’s on-going illustrated poetry collection, “Dolly Deals with Death and other Melancholy Milestones.” Source: Unceded Voices 2017,


Standing in front of Dolly Deals’ mural in St. Henri, all I could think of was the voice of the first man I heard speak at the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in Montréal in April 2013.[i] It was the shyness and shame in his voice that struck me full in the chest and had me weeping before I could even sit down. I didn’t sit down. For the next few hours, I stood with my back against the wall, tears streaming down my face, listening to gentle and courageous voices carrying unbearable pain.

Dolly Deals’ mural gives voice to the Indigenous children who never made it home from residential school. Some died there, far from their families, without their parents knowing how or when they died or where they were buried. Some died trying to make their way back home after running away from residential school.

“Hundreds of schools. Hundreds of years. Every place, every student had their own stories. I don’t know that I could summarize that. It’s not so much one big problem. It’s thousands and thousands of individual people’s trauma. There was a system set up where abusing and using and torturing children was easy – was essentially legal. Government did get involved in residential schools in a significant way…. No one really cared except us, obviously, ‘cause we were the ones living with that….” (Source: video interview with Dolly, Unceded Voices 2017,

Street art by Cedar Eve Peters, honouring her ancestors, carrying their stories forward and sharing the healing colours of her dreams –


Detail of mural by Cedar Eve Peters, St. Henri, Montréal


Detail of mural by Cedar Eve Peters, St. Henri, Montréal


Detail of mural by Cedar Eve Peters, St. Henri, Montréal


Street art by Shanna Strauss, a Tanzanian-American artist, honouring two courageous activists from Kahnewake, Ellen Gabriel and the late Mary Two-Axe Earley –


Street art by Elizabeth Blancas, an emerging queer Xicana artist, portraying her testament and tribute to women of colour and two-spirit people –


Street art by Dayna Danger, an emerging 2-spirit/Queer, Métis/Saulteaux/Polish artist (, in collaboration with Jessica Canard, a multi-media visual artist of Ojibwe heritage (


Detail of a mural by Dayna Danger, in collaboration with Jessica Canard, St. Henri, Montréal


Street art by Aura and Chief Lady Bird – and


Street art by Colombian American muralist, Jessica Sabogal. Vandalized three times, the vestiges of red and orange paint show attempts to silence her UNCEDED VOICE.

All photos in this piece were taken by Jody Freeman. Special thanks to Freda Guttman for her impassioned tour of these mural sites in her neighbourhood. Her series of street art on “Acknowledging History, Unsettling Canada” exposes the colonial abuses of the Indian Act of 1867 and current-day practices of the Canadian government.

Detail of street art by Freda Guttman, “Acknowledging History, Unsettling Canada,” St. Henri, Montréal



[i] For information on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, visit its website at

[ii] For more on Mary Two-Axe Earley, see; and on Ellen Gabriel and her art,

[iii] Recounted by Freda Guttman, St. Henri artist and activist. For more on Freda, visit