This September, the Onaman Collective, a small group of First Nations artists using art for social change, plans to celebrate this empowering cultural revitalization by organizing the Indigenous Tattoo Gathering in the “bush” on the North Shore of Lake Huron. After more than two centuries of colonial suppression, indigenous tattoo practices have experienced an extraordinary resurgence across Canada, the United States, Mexico, and elsewhere, and this event will be celebration of how far this cultural movement has come.
The event, which is currently fundraising, will be a two-day celebration of ancient tribal tattooing practices and the Indigenous communities that keep these sacred traditions alive. Since the event’s use of the camping site is being donated at no cost, most of the fundraising proceeds will go to bringing out 10 Indigenous tattoo artists who specialize in traditional designs and methods, such as Marjorie Tahbone (who is also a former Miss Indian World in addition to being a knockout hand-poke tattoo artist), Jay Soule, and Kanenhariyo Seth Lefort.
Additional funds will be used to feed the estimated 200 or more attendees traditionally prepared meals, provide environmentally friendly and sustainable supplies for the camp, and to furnish gifts for tribal elders. Onaman Collective co-founder Christi Belcourt has announced that artists will not charge for tattoos and that food and camping will be available free of charge — but only if the Onaman Collective meets their fundraising goal.
After just one month, the organizers have already amassed nearly $1,000 of their $15,000 goal, so it seems as if their dream is on its way to becoming a reality. If enough people pitch in, who knows how many indigenous individuals will walk away from the event with the bodily markings that their ancestors once wore? It could be a major development in the revival of traditional tribal tattooing that’s currently occurring across the globe.