Jenna Rose Sands is an Cree and Ojibwe collage artist living in London. Her most recent project, Introducing Atrocities Against Indigenous Canadians for Dummies, is a self-published zine series with two issues currently published.
The first issue covers Residential Schools, while the second issue covers Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Through combining facts and personal stories with powerful imagery, Jenna’s work explores national atrocities with deep histories using an intimate medium.
Jenna chatted with London Fuse about the inspiration for the project, the process of creation, and the feedback and conversation the project has generated.
Rage and despair can be powerful channels for creativity. Jenna expressed the anger, exhaustion, and heartbreak she felt with recent events that have rattled the Indigenous community, including the verdict in the murder of Tina Fontaine.
“There’s a level of being defeated, but then there’s also this nice freshness of people starting to be like, okay, this is crap. How do we move forward?”
“I had to step back and see where I could create change.”
For Jenna, the answer was zines, a medium she had created and shared in her teens as a student at Bealart. Zines in a 2018 context represent a connection beyond the quick scrolling of screen-based social media.
“It’s nice to hand somebody something and to be one-on-one and to see each other and to be encouraging that dialogue face to face. I wanted something very tangible for myself and for others.”
Thus, the Introducing Atrocities Against Indigenous Canadians for Dummies project was born.
The creation of each zine is a lengthy, intimate process. To begin, Jenna takes her time layering images with individually cut sentences of text to create each page. She then either scans or photographs the pages to prepare them for printing at The Print Studio.
In the finished product, one of the striking content features in the zines is “Quick Sad Facts.” In these sections, Jenna presents a tragic fact with the tone of pop-up trivia.
“Humor in the right way was important in the zines,” Jenna explains. “As I was growing up, my mother explained that the only way that Indigenous people were able to get through what they did as a community, as a family, was humor.”
The back page of each zine includes questions to encourage further thinking on the topics. Jenna is hopeful that her zines can prompt conversation in different arenas.
“Maybe someone will use this on trivia night, you know? When was the last residential school closed? Quick sad facts!”
Points of Connection
Word of Jenna’s project spread fast. Within two days of printing the first issue, she had sold a hundred copies.
Readers range from students at Western buying zines to leave them in strategic places, to friend groups buying them to share at wine nights, to people buying them to educate specific people they know.
“One of the best things about this project is hearing the kind of conversations that people are having,” she says. “The biggest feedback that I hear from this is, ‘I had no idea.'”
In addition, points of connection come from the empathy non-Indigenous readers feel for Indigenous people in their lives. Jenna shares a reaction a friend of hers had to reading the series’ second issue.
“She had a point where she stopped and she was upset on the couch, because she was thinking about myself, and my friend who is a spoken word artist, Awasis,” Jenna says. “She was thinking about us, and how we have to walk down the street, and what is that like?”
Overall the feedback so far has been positive. Conversely, the few negative responses that Jenna encounters tend to be dismissive.
“I definitely get the, ‘oh, that was a long time ago’ response. It’s one of the most infuriating comments to get. They feel like they already know, and so that’s a hard demographic take to get to read something.”
For those who are open to more information, Jenna has created a companion website for the project. The website contains references Jenna used in creating the zines as well as further reading.
Currently, Jenna is mulling over new issues, including a zine exploring the details of the Indian Act. Another issue Jenna wants to complete is an instructional zine about powwow etiquette.
“I think laced all through it, it’s gonna say ‘don’t touch.’ The amount of people that touch you when you’re at a powwow is incredible. They come up and touch the drum, or touch people’s regalia, or their feathers. It’s like we only dance for them, so therefore they can touch us.”
What does the future hold for Jenna beyond the Introducing Atrocities Against Indigenous Canadians for Dummies series?
“I’d like to think that once I’m done sort of telling these stories and telling these facts, that I’ll feel resolved in that. I’ve done my part. I’ve tried to share knowledge. I’ve tried to share history. Maybe I can have a new story, you know? That would be nice.”
Jenna shared encouragement for others to follow her example and share the stories of their communities.
“Anyone can do it. If you have words and you have things that you want to say, and you want to have that tangibleness and of handing it to people and talking, then go for it. “
Additionally, Jenna explained that though she uses a print shop now, there are less expensive ways for a zinemaker to get started, such as using copiers at local public library branches.
“How many things out there can you actually make and in large enough quantities where you can disperse them? Especially if you’re a teenager or if you’re someone that doesn’t have a lot of disposable cash, you don’t really get that opportunity, right?”
“You can make movement in your community, at what people perceive is a small level, but all you need is a little ripple to start waves.”
Jenna often carries zines on hand if you happen to run into her. Otherwise, you can often find them at Brown & Dickson, or use the contact page on the series companion website to buy the zines from Jenna directly.