Johnny Aitken: Activist

I feel compelled to take action in regards to Indigenous, Metis, and Inuit issues. I need to engage with the community in some way which shifts society as a whole towards reconciliation.

I believe for all of us to move forward towards reconciliation; we must all work together.

Red Dress ceremony, Mayne Island BC
Photo Credit: Toby Snelgrove

Installation: “7000+Spirits”

September 2022

Colonial old-style fencing, rotting into the ground, fallen cross. Grave. Bottom of grave are thousands of First Nation children. Broken. Broken mirror represents fragmented spirits/separated from family, more spirits reflected and the rising of these children. Above are the children who have gone up to be with their ancestors (Home). Orange flickering are the children.

In remembrance
To commemorate the lost and
buried children
To confront the crushing pain
of memories in the most
explicit way possible


Enclosed by the familiar weathered and broken white picket fence, Johnny Aitken
revealed the unspoken brutality and the stark reality of that loss.

And yet, looking down into that grave, he created a tangible image of light and weightlessness, rising out of the darkness.

An evocative transformation

A final and profound spiritual

~ Trisha Glatthaar

Santa Fe Art Institute

Fumbling Towards Reconciliation /
Johnny Aitken & Marie Weeks

Johnny Aitken and Marie Weeks began collaborating in the summer of 2017, but their lives had always been intertwined due to their connection with the community on Mayne Island in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia (part of the unceded traditional territory of the Coast Salish people). They share a passion for social change and exploring ways to shift the many power imbalances that exist in our current society. They both have a deep desire to be active participants in the evolving relationship between Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Canada. Johnny, (Coast Salish Nation) and Marie (British, Irish, French descent settler) had separately been bringing settlers together to facilitate the education and understanding that is required to create sustainable change. John’s activist work is drawn from a broad skill set including First Nations family services, community outreach, physical acting, dance, script writing, carving, film-making and photography. Marie’s focus has been on group facilitation, relationship building and academic research through the First Nations and Indigenous Studies program at the University of British Columbia.


Johnny just received an Equity grant from the CRD to create a short video titled, “Washed-up” for the Southern Gulf Islands REDress Project. John’s sponsor society for this project is Ptarmigan Arts on Pender Island B.C. Many thanks for being the Sponsor Society and for sponsoring this project!

Details of project:

My collaborators for this project have been chosen through relationships founded on trust and a shared vision to raise awareness on the Gulf Islands about the systemic oppression faced by Indigenous communities. All three women who will be acting in the short film all come from the local Mayne Island community – Claire Gendron, Annette Witteman, and Steffani McBurney. Gail Noonan, also a long-time resident, will be creating the music for the film. Each participant comes from a different background and brings different experiences: some are white settlers, some are mixed race, some are Indigenous, and the ages of the team range from early thirties to late sixties. Working across difference and building bridges between communities is a key part of this project.

North by Northwest Interview

Mayne Island resident Johnny Aitken and the public library launch the winter reading challenge.

Listen to Interview

The ReDress Project

The ReDress Project was started in 2010 by Metis artist Jaime Black. Jaime started this project to bring awareness to the disproportionate  number of missing and murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Trans and Two-spirit individuals  in Canada. This project has also just recently made its way to America, where there are similar, if not equal disproportionate numbers.

Visit ReDress Project Page

Water Installation

An installation to bring attention to issues surrounding clean, accessible water.

Photo Credits: Toby Snelgrove

Water Is Life: Honouring Clean Water

School children were asked to think about the importance of water in their world and to create a picture and a caption to go along with their picture. After reflecting and sharing some ideas with each other, here were some of the younger students “big ideas” about water is life:

  • Every animal needs water
  • Sharks need water to live
  • Everything needs water
  • Tigers need water
  • Super sharks need water
  • Trees need water
  • Orcas need water
  • Forests need water
  • People need water
  • Birds need water
  • The tree and the girl need water
  • Everything needs water

Older students summed it up this way:

Water impacts everything: it impacts towns, cities industries, food, animals, and people.

Water is everything. Without water, we could not live.

Teacher testimonials:

This process encouraged the children to connect to an important idea that water is life, it is precious. Viewing the water installation the children understood the symbolism of the water bottles going upstream and the connection to salmon returning to the river. Through this process, they made the critical connection that many people do not have access to clean water and that it is precious and needs to be conserved.

As teachers, we were inspired by the thoughtful responses shared by the students.

Mayne Island Stands With Standing Rock

Members of the Community of Mayne Island, BC, Canada came together on November 15, 2016, to show their support for the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota in opposition to the pipeline under construction of Sioux Territory lands.

Music Credit: Night of the Owl, Kevin MacLeod,
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Island Tides Interview

Click On Image to Read Article on Island Times Website

Mayne Island Conservancy Society Article

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