gabe calderon final.jpg

Gabriel 
Calder
​ón

Gabriel Calderón is from Kichi sipi, Unceded Algonquin Territory. They are Algonquin and Mi’kmaq; mixed white, Scottish and French Canadian, currently living in Amiskwaciy Waskahikan, Treaty 6. Gabe is a multidisciplinary artist who recently published their first novel, Màgòdiz.

Gabe Calderon InterviewGabe Calderon
00:00 / 59:31

Interpretations of their own teachings and opinions shared here are the responsibility of each artist. 

Written transcript is below.

"I believe there is a Creator, and I believe that Creator wants us all to just love each other, as we are, and have basic human decency for each other."

Written Transcript,
Interview with Gabriel Calderón 
for Kindling

Gabe Calderon: Yeah, absolutely. So you can hear me really well. Everything's good
audio-wise? 

 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah, yeah. Everything seems to be fine on my end. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Awesome. So yeah, [introduction in the language]. Hi, everyone. My name's Gabe Calderon. Um, I'm doing pretty well, and I hope that all of you and your families are doing well right now as well during this pandemic. I'm originally from Kichi sipi, which is our colonially known as Ottawa, Unceded Algonquin Territory. My family is Algonquin as well as Mi'kmaq, and I'm also mixed white, Scottish and French Canadian, and I currently live in Amiskwaciy Waskahikan, which is colonially known as Edmonton, within the Treaty Six territory, which is the ancestral space of the Papaschase Cree Nation. But there are lots of nations like the Diné, the Salteaux, the Blackfoot, as well as the Métis peoples that often travelled through this Treaty Six area. Which is really massive, it's a big part of Alberta, big part of Saskatchewan, it's like, it's a big chunk. 
 
And I have lots of jobs, which I listed in English, basically. So thank you for having me, I'm really humbled. I'm really honoured to be a part of this podcast, and it's just a beautiful, sacred space to have and to hear femme folks, and women, and non-binary, Two Spirit people just, you know, sharing their truths and their stories, and so I'm just really grateful to be a part of that. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Wela'lin, thank you for sharing every little detail and letting us get to know you a little bit better. That was awesome to hear your language in such, you know, fluidity. Very inspiring for sure. So thank you again. So we'll move into our artistic expression a little bit and talk a little bit about that. So I was thinking we could talk about your method of artistic expression and why that is important to you. 
 
Gabe Calderon: So I'm pretty sure like most Indigenous artists, I'm multidisciplinary, right? Pretty much, pretty much every artist I like. I do this and this and this and this and I think that just speaks to like, you know, the beauty and the fluidity and just the resilience that we carry that, um, yeah, we just, we just let our creativity flow in whichever way. So myself, personally, I have to balance between work like paid work, paid stable work, I should say, with the biweekly paycheque and stuff and then also doing art. I would consider myself a very emerging artist, so I don't, I'm not yet in a place where art can, you know, fully sustain me or pay my bills. Yeah. So basically I try as much as possible to use art in almost everything that I do.

Unfortunately, things arise, so sometimes I will do very little to almost no creative output for like months. And that'll really start to I'll start feeling it, it'll really start to drain me and I, I don't try to like push myself. I accept, you know, I just finished a novel and I had an interested publisher, so I push myself to finish it because of that. But typically I just let words just come. Sometimes I'll be driving and I'll have to, like, pull over and and start like the voice memo (unclear) in my head. They have to get out of my head and you know, I can't forget them. But most often it's in the middle of the night. I will wake up from a dream or I'll be like just about to fall asleep, and that's when everyone says is like the time when your mind goes quiet... 

 
Ceilidh Isadore: So true. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Um, yeah. And then it's like. And these words come. And so I have like a little pen in a paper next to me because if I don't write them down, I will completely forget them the next day. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Right. It's the worst. 
 
Gabe Calderon: That poem, You know like, what was that? You know. So, so I sort of just yeah, I just sort of went and was talking to this amazing artist, writer and knowledge keeper named Darlene Auger, and she calls it the creativity or the creation sort of spirit. She called that like a muse. But like engaging with that spirit and actually, like offering tobacco. Like, I would like to work with you. I'm offering you this tobacco to come and work with me and help, you know, this process, this creative process or whatnot. And and to just sort of. Yeah. It's just look at it as a spirit and engage with it in a good way. Um, and I was just, I thought that was so profound because I was like, right, like, this is not, I would say, almost nothing that I do artistically, actually, literally just comes from me... 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Right. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Most of it comes from dreams or things that are happening... 'Cause I do a lot of slam poetry and a lot of them slam poetry is like just like I'm so angry at know, all the things that are happening in the world, right? So I'm just, you know, I'm being inspired by everything around me and less so by, like, literally just me alone. And everything that I do as an artist is for community and with community. So the fact that we have this creative spirit that we can engage with for me is like, yes! Let's do that. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah! So lucky! 
 
Gabe Calderon: My process. Yeah. Yeah. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: And I really resonate with your words. Um, I find we're so lucky to have that creative spirit just dancing around us, right? And. And I tell folks the same thing, like, this is. Is not just coming from me. Like, no way would I be able to just whip this up. Like, no problem. Like, this is just things like shooting into my brain, and I have no idea where it's coming from, but I'll give it a root to ancestors or a spirit or something, because at least that is like a relationship that I can feed.
 
Is there a piece that you are most proud of and perhaps a good reason why that you could maybe describe to us? 
 
Gabe Calderon: Yeah, so I just I just finished writing my first novel, which is called Màgòdiz. And unfortunately, the publishing world is like really slow, so I don't yet have like a contract or anything like by a publisher. But the day that I do get a contract from that date, it's anywhere from like a year to a year and a half before the book's actually on the shelves and in the stores. So a lot of people are just like, oh, you wrote your first book? Like when, when is it coming out? Like next week, next month? And I'm like, no, a really long time. A year is like nothing. But it's basically been, it's been in my brain for like at least ten years. And I've spent probably the last three years writing on and off, and I've probably edited it like over a thousand times. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Wow! 
 
Gabe Calderon: It's just been such a labour of love. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yes. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Um, and I'm just I yeah, it's it's it's like, I mean, most, most writers write, on their bucket list is like, write a book. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Of course, yes. 
 
Gabe Calderon: I did it! 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: That's amazing. I'm so proud just listening to this! 
 
Gabe Calderon: Yeah! So and it's just, and it's and it's everything that I wanted as, as a young adult fiction novel when I was growing up. I always tell people growing up I had to weave stories within stories. So like, you know, take something super problematic, like Harry Potter, like Harry's like Native and also a little bit queer and even has a learning disability. And like, I'm like and I'm imagining all this stuff in my brain that I can. And it's not in the book. Like, I'm like, you know, this is in my brain. This is the reality because I couldn't find those characters anywhere. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: So, so I'm just I'm just excited for yeah, for this book to be out and for these characters to be in the world. And, and I don't know how many people are going to read it, but, just one kid that has like these intersections, intersectional identities is like, oh my god, my identities are in a book. Like, That's it, I'm good. I have succeeded. I can die in peace! 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Oh, for sure. It's so important. So, so important. And and it's amazing, too, because of like, of course, with so many Indigenous folks, like we're all about the future generations and passing on those amazing gifts to our kind and our grandchildren. I'm so happy to hear that you're honouring your younger spirit in that way. It's such like a rewarding feeling, I can imagine. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Absolutely. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: It's amazing. A book. Writing a book is such like a huge accomplishment. Like you said, all writers want to do that. So the fact that you made it there and edited a thousand times like that is so huge. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Oh my god, at least! (unclear) Just so much work. So worth it. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: And so much love. Right. Like you said, it's just like fed with love. So people are going to feed, feel that right when they engage with it. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Yeah. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. So if we move forward, we could talk a little bit about any artists or art movements that you've maybe been influenced by, if anything comes to mind right away. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Yeah, absolutely. I'm I'm really, really just amazed by a lot of Indigenous poets and also like John Trudell, um, Janet Marie Rogers. Billy Ray Belcourt. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mm hmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Smokii Sumac, like, just I have, like, all of these books in my house because I just I can't get enough of, you know, Indigenous poetry. And also specifically, like, (unclear) Billy Ray Belcourt is probably like, like I read their work, like I read one poem and I either break into tears or I just sit there in, like, silence. Like, for an hour. Like I still have, like I must have bought their their memoir. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: It's like the Brief History of My Life, something like that. It's just, it's just. Anyways, I, I read the intro and I was like, this is for me, like the epitome of, like, this is it. This is, this is two spirit poetry and writing at it's like it's, it's peak, you know, and I and I just felt just so grateful to just be able to read those words. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And yeah. So huge influence, huge inspiration for me. Um, and then also I really also want to credit, you know, Afro Futurism and also um, just Black poets in like the seventies and eighties that started the slam poetry movement because a lot of people talk about Indigenous Futurism, but we don't talk about the fact that actually stems from Afro Futurism. Right. That's. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Right. 
 
Gabe Calderon: That dates hundreds of years ago to Black people envisioning a future where they would be free and that's where the genre comes from. And you know, um, my story, Love After the End my, my novel Màgòdiz, like all of those are stemmed in Indigenous Futurisms, which is based off Afro Futurisms. And then all the work that I do as a slam poet, none of that would have been possible without Black poets trying to find alterNative ways to get people to listen to them. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And also a creative outlet for all of the injustices and all of the, you know, anger and righteous rage. They were feeling that everything that was happening back then and that's still happening today. So I always try to credit the Black community because, um, if it wasn't for them doing all of this work and labor, you know, I wouldn't be able to just step onto a stage and say my piece, you know? 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Yeah, absolutely in awe and just so grateful for all of the work that's been done before me. So I can just walk in and do my thing and people, you know, understand or appreciate or whatnot or even just have me there. Right? 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Right. Yeah, yeah. It's huge. And thank you for mentioning that because like you mentioned something that kind of gets overlooked and not talked about as much. And so like, that's huge. So a lot of us wouldn't be able to share our stories and share our words in the way that we do without all of that effort and strength and and resilience. I really look up to those people as well, and especially Smokii Sumac, like they were around Trent University a lot. So I was able to like become really close with them and they inspired so much of my work as well. So these are all important people to honour in our in our conversations. 
 
Um, so the next question we have is how does the land and water where you are influence any of your work? 
 
Gabe Calderon: So I, I actually live in the city in Canada that has the most green space, which besides the River Valley, Edmonton is like really boring. But I interview sort of everything, see the lands where, where I'm at and also the waters. Mhm. And so a lot of the work that I, that I do is, is to acknowledge that and also give offerings and um, make reparations. Right. And then I also explain to folks to that even though I'm Indigenous, my nations are still like a guest to this. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And before I lived here I lived in the Arctic, in Inuit territory. It was the same thing. I was, I was a guest nation. Right, and, and so a lot, um, even the artistic work that I do is all based around consent because it's, you know, when I lived in Ottawa, I was like, Oh yeah, I'm Algonquin. My family's from here, my family's like, you know, my nation's been from here forever, but it's very, very different when you're a guest in a different area and the work that you have to do with that land and the offerings that you have to make to the spirits of that area. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And so, um, yeah. And the connection was like almost immediate here for me and we, we met a lot of people, you know, Cree people and Blackfoot people and Métis folks. And um, yeah, we had like a welcoming ceremony and, and then. That's when we first moved here, but since then I've been doing a lot of work with like local poets and artists and everyone here has just been so incredibly welcoming. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Aww. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Like it feels like a family that I didn't know I had, you know, just like waiting for me on the west side of the prairies. Um, but yeah, I talk a lot about the land and the water in my poetry, and I even in my poetry book, which should be coming out next month, um, I, that's literally in my, in my acknowledgements in the beginning is like the spirits of the land and the waters that, like, I live around, like they are the ones who, you know, support me and carry me and, and just help me in this life. Because like, um, in my book, like, without spoiling anything, you know, it's a post-apocalyptic future where, like, there is no more green, there is no more water. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Oh, wow. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And for me, that would be the worst possible thing... 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Of course 
 
Gabe Calderon: Like, that would be like, what would be the point of of actually trying to live if you weren't in balance with your environment and everything that is out there in Mother Nature sustains us? Right? We would die without her. So. So, yeah. So I was like, this is the worst possible future I can think of. Let's write that. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: And that's like, that's an awesome topic to tackle because it's something that we're so scared of. Right? How about how did your gender identity or sexual orientation influence your early years and how has it influenced your work? 
 
Gabe Calderon: Because they're just so brainwashed by it and it's like there's almost no logic and no reason. Um, so yeah. And, and so growing up there was no, the only concepts of gender identity and sexual orientation is, is that anything besides being cis gender and heterosexual you know, was a sin, and so I grew up really afraid of myself because I understood at a very, very young age, even though I didn't know the words for it back then. But I understood so clearly just very, very young, that I was not straight and that I was not cisgender and that these were not, you know, that I was different. And so. I used to pray, like, every night, you know, to God to fix me. 
 
It took a lot of years of ceremony and elders and two spirit gatherings. I did, I did western therapy. I also did, you know, traditional, you know, Indigenous therapies and ceremonies to accept myself fully and to understand that, you know, Creator like made me this way and to be two spirit is to be chosen like before birth, to come into this earth, to help bring balance, you know. And that could be just about anything that could just be with me, myself and my partner or partners or just with my family. Or maybe it's a workplace, you know? Um, and, and so I, I sort of have obviously a much, much different perspective of myself now. But if ever you do hear, like, you know, my slam poetry or you pick up my, uh, my poetry chapbook, I do talk a lot about Christianity and just its really horrible, negative impacts. Um. Not just on the fact of being a queer and trans and non-binary, but also being Indigenous. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mm hmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And just like how, like. And like, for me, it's just it's so crystal clear. It's like, how can you have a belief that was literally the tool of our genocide? Like, it was okay for them to, you know, relocate us and kill us and put us on Reserve because we weren't Christian. And by the simple fact that we weren't Christian, we were deemed savage. And now to see it's further to be completely turned around to the point that Indigenous Christians would demonize ceremony. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Right. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Like, like my parents say, like your books and all of that, like, you know, they're they're they're spreading. You know, my parents have told me that it's society that makes people queer. They're not born that way. And people like me writing books about, you know, work with queer characters and things like that is what is going to make other people get (unclear). 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Oh, yeah, wow. 
 
Gabe Calderon: That's not how (unclear). That's not how it works. I find it really sad, honestly. 
 
And I do go to a lot of ceremony, and I do pray, and I pray for open mindedness. And I just pray for open hearts because we know, like we know so many two spirit youth that have, you know, such horrible mental health issues, have, you know, really high suicide rates. They leave their communities, you know, um, to go into a city where they don't know anyone, just, just to try to find, you know, love and acceptance. It shouldn't be that way, and, um, I don't, yeah, I believe there is a Creator, and I believe that Creator wants us all to just love each other, um, as we are and, and have basic human decency for each other. And until, and this is like a whole other rant for a whole other day, but until we, like, destroy a lot of these systems of oppression, which I really do believe Christianity is founded in like white supremacy and is founded in ableism, and you know, and in cis hetero patriarchy and like all of these other systems that like really hurt us as people.

Until those systems are eradicated, we're not going to see that that true, you know, unconditional, like just respect for each other. It's just not going to be there. So we have to do our best to, um, yes, pray for the people, but also actively with as much of capacity as we have, trying to dismantle these systems within our, like the ones that we've internalized inside of us and also, um, the ones that exist, you know in all of the, you know, institutional and societal levels all around us. 

 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mm hmm. Yeah. Uh, that was also amazing. And it's so true, because if we don't tackle those really problematic areas and those roots of things, then we have lots of blocks and areas where we can't fully gather as a community and fully come together as a community with all of our hearts and our culture behind us. 
 
Um, so the next question we have is what role did art play and how has that influenced your work? 
 
Gabe Calderon: Oh, my God. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah, that's huge. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Everything! Well, I think like most people, um, growing up, I was told that art is just not a worthwhile pursuit. You're never going to make money. You're never, you know. And, um, one of my mentors. Ryan McMahon actually explained that the reason why there's that big societal myth that like art is, you're never going to make money, you're going to be broke, you're going to starve. It actually comes from like cis het white artists, that have never, like male artists, that had never like, suffered in their lives. So they would rent apartments in New York and they would not eat or they would like, purposefully, like, force themselves to stay on the streets for a few weeks and not eat and, like, starve and, like, barely dress and wash themselves just just for that, like, pain, so that it would like fuel their art. And like, that's where the stereotype comes from. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Wow! 
 
Gabe Calderon: And that for us as Indigenous artists, specifically those of us that have disabilities or that are two spirit or, you know, other intersectionalities, like we like have suffered enough just in our lived experience. And then also with the intergenerational trauma that we don't need to do anything extra like the, the, the motive- like the art just comes, you know. And that's why I find so much Indigenous art is just so inspired and, and like sometimes, like I've seen like, you know, a painting and I'm just like, I'm like, oh, I don't feel anything from it. But like, I've never had that happen to me from Indigenous folks. Like, 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Right. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Anytime I hear stories like I'm just like, oh my God, this is this is incredible. Like, wow, you know, so. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: So true. 
 
Gabe Calderon: So, yeah. So I just it's. I unfortunately, you know, maybe it's not unfortunate. Maybe there's a reason, you know, I have a Bachelor's in Social Work and I and I took that university route because I was like, oh, well, I can't do art, so, you know, let me try to help people some other way. And now I'm like backtracking. I'm like, no, like, um, I'm sure, I'm sure at this point you've heard like most Indigenous artists have all heard the that quote by Louis Riel, right, that like in 100 years, you know, the people are going to wake up, and it's going to be the artists that give them their spirit back. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mm hmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And so I was. And now I'm starting to understand that, like, art is a way to empower people, and it is a way to to get people, you know, motivated. And it is a way to get messages across and truth. And also, like not, you know, not just like all of the trauma, but also like the comedy, you know, and the joy and just the euphoria of of being who we are on an, on a daily basis. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Um, I'm also appreciating like all of those mediums as well. Um, but yeah, so I, I just try, um, I get inspired like very easily. Like, I'll see like a great quote or I'll see a beautiful image and I'm like, oh my God, like, and I get so excited. Um, and I, and like, one of my favourite things is to talk to people who are passionate about anything. You know, like. If someone's just, like, really excited about this one thing and most, most of the people around me are artists, right? And they talk about their passions, and it just like, it just fuels me, motivates me. And then I want to write and I want to create and paint and draw and, you know, so. Um. Yeah, basically, art is everything for me. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yes. I love that. And it's so true. So the next question we have is, how does the generation you grew up with influence your ideas about art?
 
Gabe Calderon: The generation I grew up with. Well, like I'm a I'm a millennial. I guess, I have Tiktok, that's how I know these things, because I literally argued one time with this kid, um, because I used to help run a transgender youth support circle here in Edmonton. And a lot of the youth were, you know, like 14 and 15, and I'm 29, and they were like, Yeah, you're a millennial. And I thought millennials were people born like in the year 2000. Until now, I was like, No, I'm a nineties kid. And they're like, No, you're a Millenial, and I was like arguing. And I was like, you know, Grandma Google solve this? And Google is like, No, we're a Millennial. It's like, Oh okay. I don't know what that means, but I'll roll with it. Yeah. I'm not, I don't think I've ever really thought about my generation. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Yeah. We're sort of like um well most of us are in this transition stage, so, so for me my understanding is like you're sort of a youth until you're kind of like 30-ish, or you become a parent and that's again up to you and up to your Indigenous nations and all of that. So I'm I'm kind of pretty excited to transition. You know, I'll be 30 next year. And so I'm kind of like. Um. I don't know. I think I'm kind of sort of ready to to be in that next stage. For me, being an adult is more about being in a listening position, and more being in a, in a service to the community position,. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Love that. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Less leadership than youth or elders would take on. So I, I feel and I'm sure I've already started to feel it happen, like I, um, you know, I keep getting called on to, to do, you know, to go to certain events or to speak at places and, and ah, sort of sort of feel like I don't, I don't think I should be. I don't think that needs to be me anymore. Like, look at these, you know, like we have I mean, sure, like you talked about Instagram, right? Like what's happening right now in Vancouver with like the Braided Warriors. You know, those are like youth, right? Those are kids. Right. And basically, a lot of the movements that all across Turtle Island have been youth led. Right. Um, like teenagers are skipping classes in high school to go to, like, environmental protest. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: It's so true. 
 
Gabe Calderon: So, you know. So, yeah. Um. But I think, I think more so than, than, you know, my generation and my peers, I feel like I'm actually just more in awe of, of just the younger generation because I find when I was in high school, it was the mood was sort of like just, you know, just be grateful that you you even have this, you know. So if someone says something homophobic to you or someone says something racist, you just sort of like, you know, just take it, you know, just relax and let it slide, you know, don't cause trouble. And I find this generation now that's like in high school is like, no unacceptable, I'm not going to let this slide whatsoever. And I'm like, Yes!  Yes, exactly that is exactly how we should have been at that age! 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Right. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Just so in awe. Um, yeah, I actually, that's actually the last poem I wrote was just about, um, yeah, how youth are being arrested for trying to protect the land for future generations. And yet people can have a protest about masks that actually endangers lives of people who are immuno-compromised. But that's okay, nobody got arrested at those. You know, and I'm just like we, the whole poem is about how this country protects buildings over people. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm. Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: You know. So yeah. So and again that's, that's being completely inspired by youth and by what youth are doing, right. So yeah. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Youth are the best. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Absolutely. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. Like, especially like the little ones, the babies and the kids. Like I just love any time I could be around my little cousins or niblings, like, I just watch them as long as possible, just seeing, like, how they interact with things in the land and just like being free with themselves. 
 
What aspects of your Indigenous identity influence your art practice? 
 
Gabe Calderon: Mhm. So being like born and raised in Ottawa and like the Gatineau area, pretty much everything is very like, you know, Algonquin or Anishinaabe focused. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And it's like to the point that I know almost nothing to very little about and Mi'kmaqi people. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Right. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And my Mi'kmaw culture. And I feel really bad about that and I feel like at some point I'm going to have to head over to the East Coast and like reconnect with my family there because I also really only met them a few times when I was a kid. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And just, just learn more because I just, I know so much of you know about my family in Ottawa and my family and in Maniwaki, and like in, in surrounding regions. But know just so little [about] my other Indigenous family. Um, so, and it's everything to me. Absolutely. A lot of my works have teachings in it, have the language in it. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: I, yeah, I, I'm taking Anishinaabemowin classes. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Aw that's awesome. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Yeah, I want to be fluent. I would love to be fluent one day. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Right! 
 
Gabe Calderon: But until then, I, you know, I take what I can and I try to learn a little bit everywhere. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mm hmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And it's hugely. Yeah, it's a ceremony. And and my, you know, my Indigenous identity is is yeah, it's been everything to me. Growing up, we always, for me growing up Indigenous I, I sort of internalized like a lot of the negative aspects. You know I have some family members who have issues with addictions, you know, been in and out of prisons. Um, you know, some, some gangs, things like that, and so, um, growing up, you know, there was, it was always this sort of like understood that like those were like the bad Native people and like us being Christian, that meant we were good Native people. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: You know, and so now as an adult I've kind of gone like above and beyond into just appreciating any aspect of my culture possible. My house is like filled with art. Like I mentioned, I have tons of Native books and I listen to, you know, Native podcasts and songs and like and because I didn't grow up with that. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Right. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Just Christian stuff, you know. And occasionally we'll go to a powwow. Occasionally we would, you know, do some social activities, but everything else was really demonized. And so. Yeah. And now, like, everywhere you turn, anything that I output artistically. Absolutely, has everything to do with Indigeneity. It's just like my work is saturated. Um and I'm just yeah. I'm just really grateful for anything and everything. That's that - Oshewan! (dog barks, speaks to dog) Sorry, Come on. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Totally. Okay. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Oshewan, it's just he doesn't like people on wheels, basically anyone on bicycles or motorcycles he barks at, its weird.
 
Ceilidh Isadore: We all have our things huh. 
 
Gabe Calderon: He won't make a sound, unless someone is on something with a wheel, like he freaks. (laughs) Yeah. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: That's so funny. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Yeah. (to Oshewan) Yeah, it's all good. Yes! Sorry about that. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: No, totally, okay. Just shows how similar we all are to like all sorts of life, right? Like, I totally know I get so irritated over, like, the smallest things sometimes. 
 
Gabe Calderon: But, yeah, a huge, huge influence. Um, yeah, everything. I, um, I just. I started my next series of books and this ones are in space, you know, community. Because I never grew up hearing space words or, you know, do we have any of these words. Oh, my god. Oh, my god. You know, 'Nishnabs got back to me so fast with like so many words. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: That's so awesome! 
 
Gabe Calderon: I think this is the word for asteroid. You know, this is the word for this and that. And this is our words for spaceship. And I was like oh, my god, this is amazing. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: But also, I've just been so blessed, and, um. Yeah, just everything. Um, yeah. I wouldn't be who I am without, like, right, without the culture and um, so yeah. So I, I mean, I guess this would be for like another day, but I do also try to help folks like reconnect because a lot of people, especially two spirit people, they've just been, it's just so hard for them to find connection without also being, like, stigmatized and ostracized and potentially, you know, harmed. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Because, you know, a lot of the internalized like homophobia, transphobia, because of colonization. And so, um, I consider myself really privileged that I've had a lot of elders and knowledge keepers be so generous with me and have been able to participate in so many ceremonies. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Um, and I sort of see it as like this kind of knowledge is not meant to be hoarded. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: You know, and so any, anywhere, in, anywhere if anybody wants to know more, um, I've always been very clear that, you know, people can message me, they don't have to talk like obviously I'm not, I don't know everything I know actually very, very little, but if I can at all connect to you, you know I would absolutely love to do that for people and just help them reconnect in any way, shape or form. Um, cause it's been so healing for me and, and I know how powerful it can be for others as well. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. And it's so important to have that helper and spaces like ceremony where you're just talking about identity. How is your identity as an LGBTQ Indigenous artist, two spirit artist, or Indigenous woman artist - how is it, like how does it represent your art?
 
Gabe Calderon: Oh yeah, that's such a good question because I find two spirit is just in and of itself so odd and so complex and and I almost want it to be like undefinable. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Right. 
 
Gabe Calderon: I, myself or by community. Right. And so, how do I how do I even begin to explain this? So in. So I talk, so I'll focus more on speaking very specifically from my perspective as a two spirit person, because I believe that like every person is just unique in their own way. Yet the same time we share - we, we, we are also kin, right. We are also in relation with each other with this shared identity. Um, and so a lot of my, my artwork will just talk about some of the situations that have happened, you know, some, some homophobia or some of the trauma. But it'll also, I also really, really like to also focus on, um, you know, the euphoric aspect because so many people think that like trans people, we're just miserable all the time. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: (laughs) 
 
Gabe Calderon: No! We have like normal day to day interactions like everybody else, we hate waiting in to the bank like, you know, and, and we also have moments of euphoria. Um, and I often like to say that I don't experience gender dysphoria. I actually experience like societal dysphoria. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Because I truly believe that the body I was born with is immaculate and it is exactly by Creator's design. However, the society we live in has created these really toxic systems that says, 'This is what a man looks like, this is what a woman looks like, and this is it.' This is just so it's (sounds breaks up) besides. It's very small box, like I find I find the societal male box and the societal female box, they're like, you know, unobtainable in and of themselves. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And I don't believe a lot of the individuals who think they're in those boxes are actually in those boxes. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: (laughs) yeah! 
 
Gabe Calderon: It doesn't give any room for any of the rest of us to fit, (unclear) right. And, and I don't think we should have boxes. I really think that we are all inside of this massive circle all together. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Oh. I wrote a novel that has so many different gender identities, six different genders that go under the umbrella of two spirit, all six of them, and they all have very, completely distinct identities within two spiritedness. You know, some of them are, you know, asexual and aromantic, some of them are androgynous, some of them are, you know, trans femmes, or trans masc, or you know, non binary or, you know, and then also, like queer or, you know, and it's just like all and then all of that fluidity in and of itself, right. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mm hmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: I personally prefer to identify with the words in our language. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mm hmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Just because two spirit in English is so. It's just so big, infinite... 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Um, so I would be îhkwew, which is a word that was gifted to me by Jerry Saddleback, who is Plains Cree and who lives here in Edmonton. And it's the simplest translation because, again, English is such a limiting language would be an all gendered person or someone, you know, who is who is one and also all at the same time. Um, and that really resonated with me because I, um, I really see myself as an individual who is at the service to my community. And when I go to ceremony, I'll have elders who come up to me and they'll say, like, Excuse me, sir, can you go over by the fire? And somebody else will be like, that's, that's not a man, you know. And i'm like, no. No, no, no, this is perfect. This elder needed a man to go to the fire and to me, and that means that in that moment they saw a man. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Hmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: That's fine with me, because that's. That's what this elder needs right now. So I will go by the fire, and I will help... 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yes. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Sometimes people will be like, Oh, excuse me, ma'am. You know, can you go here? Can you do this? And I'll be like, sure. You know, am I a man? No. My woman. No, but only in ceremony spaces, right. On the day to day when people misgender me, I'm like, hey these are my pronouns, that's not my identity. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: But in ceremony, very specifically in ceremony, um, I do, I do understand that, you know, spirit works in those kinds of ways, and I just let it flow. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mm hmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And I believe that's my personal role, but I know two spirit people, their roles are to be incredible drag performers or, you know artists... 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yes. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Or teachers, or accountants. Like it's limitless. How they bring that balance, how they bring their fluidity or their you know, their gifts is that's their beautiful way. So, yeah, I, I guess that's like in a nutshell, right? How it, how I work with two spirit and how I let two spirit work with me in all of my art work. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: That's so awesome. And it's so nice to see how to spread comes out in different folks. Right. So as an Indigenous artist, what is your experience with mainstream art scenes and what has been useful for you as a two spirit artist in terms of solidarity and support from non-Indigenous artists?
 
Gabe Calderon: So I'll start with a little, I'll talk a little about the mainstream. I find I have to defend myself and advocate for myself and, like, almost fight for, like, just basic fees, things like fees, right? 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And this is, you know, this is echoed by a lot of other QTBIPOC artists. Um, you know, artists with disabilities as well, is just like, you know, a university won't even bat an eyelash to pay a Ph.D. candidate thousands of dollars to be keynote speaker. But if you bring in an Indigenous youth or an artist or whatever, they're like, yeah here's 50 bucks. It's like, I Love You and that's beautiful, but, you know, like, where is the recognition, right? You know, oh, well, this person's a Ph.D. candidate. Okay, so we're going by your standard of measurement, you're you're honouring this person because they've done, what, eight years of education? I've done 20. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: You know, so. So if we're going by your, you know, method, then I should be, you know, acknowledged for this amount of years. 'Oh, well, it wasn't in Western academia.' Oh, it wasn't in Western academia, but it was in traditional Indigenous knowledge. It was in lived experiences it way (laughs). That should just be as valid and as respected, and I find almost any mainstream space I go to, I end up having to do emotional labour. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: I'm having to educate people. I have to explain to people what protocol is a lot. Like, a lot of times people are like, Oh, I need to give an elder tobacco, and I'm not an elder by any means, but I do, I do carry a lot of tobacco teachings. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: For me tobacco traditionally it's a doorway. It is, it is, I'm giving you this because I need to ask this from you, and so even if you're asking for something like a keynote or something, just like an art installation or you're asked, like anything we do as Indigenous people is imbued with spirit. Our spirit is in our artwork and so absolutely, can you please offer tobacco to have me come do poetry... 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: (laughs) Yes. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Or have me come do an art installation or something? It's a treaty. It's the doorway. It's it's it's the connection. It's the relationship between us, you know? It's an acknowledgement and that's how we used to do things traditionally, you know. And consent! I find, like, people are so behind, like consent needs to be asked for everything. Often times people just assume that because you're young and an artist that anything and everything is fine. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Like obviously I should take a picture of your work and post it on my socials because you need exposure, right?
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah (laughs). 
 
Gabe Calderon: No, it's like, you need to ask me permission to take pictures of my stuff or, or to quote me, like I've been quoted in articles I knew nothing about. And I'm just like, what is this? So. um yeah, I think that if you are not from a community that is being taken advantage of, you're not from a marginalized community, you need to absolutely be going above and beyond to ensure that you're doing things culturally competent. And then also, you need to be striving more to empower people around you. I'm like, I get so tired because I'm like, there's, there's websites. There's, google right now, like tobacco protocol. And you're going to get like 87 hits 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: So true (laughs)
 
Gabe Calderon: You're just not looking for it. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mm hmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Yeah. And it's, and I, and every artist I talk to says the same thing. They they get so tired of, like, almost negotiating people to pay them a living wage or to acknowledge them, you know? And people are obsessed with, like, oh, well, we'll pay you, but at least like you can tell people about us and we are known and that'll help you get known and it's like, No, I can't pay my bills with name dropping you. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Seriously, yeah, or they just assume that it's easier for us to just share what we know, when it's actually usually a lot of the opposite. It's a lot harder for us to share some of these things, than them just googling it and it's so much emotional labour, like you were saying. Um, yeah, thank you for sharing your perspective on that and kind of going off of that as well. If you feel comfortable, how how do you think art scenes can better support two spirit artists nowadays? 
 
Gabe Calderon: I honestly think people and like people they think... So I'll have people tell me, for example, oh, I sent an email to this two spirit organization and they never got back to me. So I did my I did my part, I sent an email, it's their fault they didn't get back to me. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: So they're the problem now. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Like, well, did you check their website? Did you not see that it's a completely volunteer led and run organization. Do you not think that maybe these people are parents or students or they have jobs and and I was like, you have to go the extra mile. You have to, you know, right now with COVID you can't. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: But outside of COVID you need to physically come and present yourself to us. You know, you need to sit with us so that we get to know you because we have been harmed for so long. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: I moved any time I start a new job or any time I move to a new city, I always get inboxes from other Native people or other two spirit people being like, hey, just so you know, this organization has been really racist towards, or done something really problematic, or like this has happened. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Wow. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Where like everything has a warning label because we've just been harmed so much. So yeah, if you send us a big email saying like, Oh, we want to have this event and we want to have two spirit representation and like, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. Maybe we won't get back to you because we're like, Oh, are you going to harm us again? 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Right. 
 
Gabe Calderon: We don't know who you are, you know. And so you are unfortunately, a lot of people are like, well, I'm coming from a good place and I have good intentions. But if we don't know you, you're just like everyone else who said they had good intentions and has harmed us. So. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Exactly. 
 
Gabe Calderon: I think people really, really need to push themselves into discomfort and really go the extra mile and just ask, you know. Um, and maybe we don't even want to be part of your event. 
 

Ceilidh Isadore: Mmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: I find people are going about it backwards. They're like, Here's this thing. Join us. And it's like, Okay, but why aren't you asking us, like, what do we want? 
 

Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: You know what I mean? Right. Like, so I've seen people nowadays they're, they're, they're doing that approach where they're like, hey, we want to get more involved. We want to help support. We want to help empower. We also, you know, maybe we want to create an advisory committee or an advocacy group and we want to go about this in a good way, you know, so how how can we engage with you in a good way? Like, how can you do this work? And and we understand that you answering these questions for us is also labor. So we want to make sure that we're honouring your time and your energy. So here's how we're going to also do that in you answering these very basic questions and at the same time also letting us know what you need from us, and not us just telling you, we want more two spirit representation, so let's tokenize you and have you come in at our event. 
 

Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. Yeah. It definitely seems like it's become this like tokenized thing so often, especially in like universities, like in my experience and just like these big institutions of like I just can't help. I feel sometimes that they just really look forward to like checking off this like, Oh! Did a two spirit representation workshop or talk. Okay, check this off and like move forward.
 
Gabe Calderon: Yeah, there was this uh, oh, I can't remember his name right now, but I follow this really amazing Black therapist on Instagram. And he made a post about that, about how everybody wants him to come talk to them about racism. He's like, you know, I might be Black but I also experience racism. But I also have all of this incredible life experience and I have all these amazing ideas, and all these other amazing things that I do that I can talk about, you know? 
 

Ceilidh Isadore: Right! 
 
Gabe Calderon: Yeah, exactly. Like just, you know. 
 

Ceilidh Isadore: That would likely be way more inspiring too, and like (laughs). 
 
Gabe Calderon: (laughs) Yeah so. 
 

Ceilidh Isadore: And it's unfortunate sometimes of just like people being like glued on certain subjects and like it was similar to like land acknowledgments. Like everybody was obsessed with these Land Acknowledgments. It's like, do you even understand? Like at all what you're even saying or what like relationship? Like part of... 
 
Gabe Calderon: Like we, and they want us... 
 

Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah! 
 
Gabe Calderon: They want us to do the Land Acknowledgement. Do you have no idea what land we're on? Or who's buried here... 
 

Ceilidh Isadore: We've been here for like 5 minutes. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Yeah, I was. You know, I've been here two years and I've done so much research on Treaty Six and on the Papaschase Cree nation, and the amount of people I meet that are like, there was like a Métis settlement? Where like St. Albert is? Yeah, like, you guys kick them out. 
 

Ceilidh Isadore: Oh, no. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Hello? Like, how do you not know this history? You've lived here your whole life. 
 

Ceilidh Isadore: Right. 
 
Gabe Calderon: That's on privilege, you know, and, like, no, I'm not doing the Land Acknowledgement. Clearly, *you* need to do it. 
 

Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. Like there's work involved with that, like, it's not supposed to be super comfortable. Yeah. Um. Yeah. So moving on to the next one. Um. Do do do. You do, um. Yeah. 
 

So how do you offer support and solidarity to artists whose lived experiences are distinct from your own? So there's an example here that they provided. So queer Indigenous folks creating opportunities for trans women to work on their own theater productions, or middle aged programmers creating space for youth and elders to collaborate. So those are just like a few examples. But do you have any experiences supporting others who are different from you? 
 
Gabe Calderon: Um. So I, so I believe that, um, in our lives, most of us anyways live with a lot of privileges and also um, oppressions as well. And I consider myself to be very privileged. So just one very specific example is I, um, I carry a lot of privilege in the sense that I have a lot of financial literacy and I know how to write grants, I know how to do grant reports like I really, I have a lot of experience with grant writing and I know for a lot of artists that is a huge barrier. 
 

Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Because it is so like. Just, just like, you know, um, and I hope this doesn't harm me in the long run, but just like Canada Council for the Arts, for example, you know, um, just creating like a profile for that, you know, can be super alienating. 
 

Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: If you've never done something like that before. And for example, for myself when I first applied for Canada Council for the Arts, I wanted to apply as a professional Indigenous artist. And I have over 20 years of experience, you know, with sewing, traditional regalia, you know, making moccasins, beadwork, you know, just a lot of Indigenous art, um, since I was a little kid. They didn't take that, they were like, No, you had, if I had, if those things had been showcased in like an art gallery professionally, then they would have considered it. And I fought with them, I was like, you know, people have been taking orders from me and like I have made things for, you know, internationally recognized dancers, I've sewn some of their regalia pieces or beaded, you know, some of their staffs and things like that. And they're like, no, that's not good enough. It had to be like showcased in like a, you know, a museum or an art gallery for it to be considered, like, worthy art, you know? 
 
So, um. And. Yeah, and so there's. So I always offer that especially to youth, is that if ever you need support, just writing a grant or um, someone just to help you in that sort of sense. Like, I'm, I'm totally there for you. Um, I write a lot of reference letters for people. Um. I just, yeah, any any help navigating those financial worlds. I'm absolutely there for folks. And also to acknowledge that like all of that knowledge comes very specifically for me from people like Ryan McMahon and Janet Marie Rogers and like Renaltta Arluk, who are who are mentors at the Banff Arts Center when I did an Indigenous Storytelling Residency. And if you ask a lot of Indigenous artists like that's what they'll tell you is like other Indigenous people were there for them when they were emerging and gave them a lot of the skills and they were able to pass that on.

And it's this beautiful like, just like, um, never ending circle of people coming before you and then passing on everything they know and then you sort of just in any way, shape or form passing it on to other people. Um, and then also I'm someone who is, you know, very white presenting. And so I tend to, as much as possible, try to give space or room for folks that are more melanated, especially Afro Indigenous people, to take the spotlight and to be that voice when they want to, um, and to sort of just take that step back and just, you know, make that space for those folks to just step into. 

 
Ceilidh Isadore: Mmm. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Because I find for those of us who are, you know, white presenting, we often get the most opportunities. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: You know, especially like in Indigenous spaces, because white folks like to feel like we are less threatening because we look like them. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Yeah. And so we're the ones who get invited... 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: For sure. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Here's a list of people you should invite before you even think about me. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And so. And I also think it's very important, as much as possible, to defer to local people. You know, and I find a lot of times people will, they'll hear these big names or, you know, they'll hear about you from someone, from someone, from someone. And then someone from Montreal will call me and be like, Oh, can you come and do this? And I'll be like, Actually, no, because one, I'm not even from Montreal. I've never lived there. You know, my people are not from Montreal and I'm all the way over here now. So here's a list of people locally in Montreal that I know of that you can talk to. Um, so any time I get calls from Ottawa around area, I might take those. But even here living in Edmonton, I will still always defer to local folks first, before people come talk to me because, um, I find it's, it's really easy, um, to get that muddied. And I think at the local level there's people that are doing so much incredible things and they're not being recognized for it and they're not being called upon to represent those areas. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: Um, you know, again, for lots of diverse reasons. So that's, that's just a little bit of what I do personally. But um, yeah, I think, I think there's definitely a lot more that I could be working on in that I could be doing more for community, for sure. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. Well, it definitely sounds like you're doing a lot. The next question we have is, does your art practice involve or include global Indigenous artists at all? And how does this impact or influence your work? 
 
Gabe Calderon: So unfortunately, No. I consider like Turtle Island to be like an entity. So a lot of times we're like, Oh, you're international because you do a lot of work and like ceremony with like people in the States, or like, you know, in Mexico and things like that. And I'm like, no, like that's all part of the Turtle. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. 
 
Gabe Calderon: I don't I don't abide by the borders. Yeah. But I want to I have connections in like New Zealand and the Philippines. And I also have connections like in Senegal and like in Nigeria and... 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Wow. 
 
Gabe Calderon: And so, like, one day, you know, I really, really hope to be able to just travel more and do those like, knowledge shares and, um, yeah. And just connect with more artists on like that global level. But, not so much right now. 
 
Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah, especially during these COVID times and it's hard to imagine a little bit of that right now, but it's nice to look forward to and just know how much is out there and how much we still have to experience and engage with.
Gabe Calderon: That theme of my book of poetry...  

Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah.  

Gabe Calderon: That's all I do is like, and honestly like, I feel like that is the root of slam poetry in and of itself.  


Ceilidh Isadore: Right.  

Gabe Calderon: And it's so reflective of, of how it is like today. Like, I, um, I watched a lot of slam on YouTube. I took part in the 2019, um, you know Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, like their National Slam Poetry Competition. And um, and then before COVID, I was really, really active and the slam poetry scenes in Edmonton and yeah, that's basically, that's basically like it in a nutshell. Is like all of my slam pieces are about transphobia and like about like the toxicity of Christianity and about white supremacy and you know, yes, cis hetero patriarchy and just, um. Like we need to be addressing these issues and we need to be doing more about it as, as a society.  

And then I also do things like, um. Right before COVID hit last year, in February, I held like a poetry fundraiser for Wet'suwet'en. And um, and we were able to, um, we donated all of the proceeds to the legal funds to help support, to offset some, some legal fees for folks that were arrested. And, um, I think that's, that's also part of the work that, you know, part of our... And I find that a lot of, you know, two spirit and like QTBIPOC artists, they just automatically do. Like just their identities are political and so automatically, you know, they're always going to be doing this kind of work. Like they're always going to be trying to support, you know, community in any way, shape or form. Um, you know, and, and I think that's like, that's so incredible.

But I see a lot of like, you know, white artists, you know, not doing that whatsoever. You know, they just make art for themselves. And I'm like, What are you doing? So, you know. 
 So that's, again. That's like another rant for another day. But. But, yeah. So for me, it's like they're intertwined and they're one and the same and like, how can I possibly be successful and thrive if my community is not, you know? And I refuse to get to a point where I'm doing good, but nobody else around me is.  


Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah.  

Gabe Calderon: Oh, yeah. Like what would be the point? Like, there's no point to that, you know. So I got interviewed by this, this program and the interviewer was white and they were like, So do you ever like want to get rich off your books? And I was, like, No! What?  It's like my goal is not wealth, like my goal is never wealth for personal gain. My everything that I do is for community because everything that community does is like a cycle, right?.  


Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah.  

Gabe Calderon: You know, um, like what we mentioned all the way in the beginning. And so, of course, if, um, like, I can't, I can't sit there and focus on my work when I keep seeing videos of like, you know, kids being dragged by their hair by cops, like, um, and it affects like just so much of me in my spirit and, and I'm just like, I have to, you know, I have to be part of the solution. And so what, what is it that I carry in my bundle? Is it as a person like my my personal bundle of gifts, you know, that Creator gave me in this lifetime to help support those people, you know, and sometimes that's physically going to be on the front lines, sometimes its donating funds or donating my time or, or, you know, um, online support, email support. Um, just whatever it is that I can do. And I just, I see all around me other artists are doing that. And I think that collectively that's what's going to make the change for the better. It's just all of us trying to do the little bit that we can.  


Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. Absolutely. And I really liked when you said, like, if the community isn't striving, like I don't want to strive, like it has to strive together and and I love how wrapped it is, like how wrapped we are in our responsibilities and how wrapped we are with our roles. And it doesn't detach or become separated.  How does your creative practice involve community? And can you share about your process? So we definitely talked a lot about community, but if you can maybe touch on it a little bit more, that'd be awesome.  

Gabe Calderon: Mhm. Um. I guess like one of the examples I could give is that I'm supporting like the leadership of the Edmonton Indigenous Poets Society.  


Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm.  

Gabe Calderon: And, and this stems from, you know, the original like Indigenous Poets Society, which is - I want to say based out of Saskatoon, but I, I um, I might be mixing up my Canadian cities here. But. Yeah. And just started off by, you know, people like, you know, Janelle Ecoaborijanelle, um, just other, like really incredible Indigenous poets because like we, before that we didn't really have like a formalized like, you know, Indigenous poetry group like in all of Canada. Um, and just, and like Edmonton is just so rich with Indigenous art, it's like there everywhere. Like everything from, like, you know, fashion designers. Like we have models, like I have friends that are literally models from New York fashion...  


Ceilidh Isadore: Wow!  

Gabe Calderon: You know, and I'm just like, how, how you why do you like don't, people like you need to live like New York or like LA. What are you doing in Edmonton? I mean, just, you know, just too fabulous for this city, you know and just yeah, and I... So yeah so I'm very involved with the poetry community here in Edmonton very specifically. And you know, before COVID hit, we would have like monthly meetings where we would have like writing from. Mhm. We would support each other like to go to competitions like we would fundraise to like help send someone to competitions because you're often in other cities and um, just really support each other. Like if, if someone's got a poetry book coming out, you know, helping get the word out.

Um, giving opportunities for other like right now, I don't know if this will be aired in time, but on March 15th is the deadline to take part in Indigenous Poetry Anthology. And it's open to anyone who's Indigenous. Um, regardless of where you're from, you don't have to be like First Nations, you just have to be, you know, Indigenous to somewhere and to submit a poem. We applied for a grant. All of the poets who are selected to take part in the final book will get paid and they'll still have the rights to their poems. And, um, those are things that, like we as a community do for each other to help support each other, to help grow because published in anthologies do that open so many doors for you for awards and for grants and opportunities. 
 


Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah.  

Gabe Calderon: And there was like a post on Instagram the other day about the publishing world in Canada and how like 80% of the publishers are like mostly cis, white women.  


Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm.  

Gabe Calderon: And how so many Indigenous artists have such a hard time getting published or having such a hard time getting their poetry or their written works or... Out there.  

Ceilidh Isadore: So true. 

Gabe Calderon: So we need to be doing that for each other, you know. And so, um, I was like, yeah, absolutely. We need to create this anthology. And so I, you know, I applied for the grant so that we could get the funds to pay these poets and to get the anthology printed and all of that. Um. So. So, yeah, those are, you know, that's just like a small example, but um, absolutely, I think like, yeah, community is vital and um, and get yourself out there and volunteer because like, obviously all of this is volunteer work. Um, but at the same time the community will sustain you. 
 

Ceilidh Isadore: Mhm.  

Gabe Calderon: I would often say that I couldn't write poetry at home and then I would go to one of these nights and there would be writing prompts, and then for the first time all month I was writing all this poetry.  

Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah.  

Gabe Calderon: And I just, it wasn't coming out any other time, you know. So I think it's, it's absolutely vital to your practice as an artist to be involved in community.  

Ceilidh Isadore: Yeah. It's so important to have those people around and it's definitely an asset for motivation and inspiration with those words.  I was just going to say, is there anything else that you would like to share or any other topics you wanted to touch on or any plugs you'd like to do? Maybe.  

Gabe Calderon: I guess, like, I'll plug in my my Instagram handle 

Ceilidh Isadore: For sure.  

Gabe Calderon: It's @nishingabe. So it's n-i-s-h-i-n-g-a-b-e. Nishin neans good, so it's like good Gabe.  

Ceilidh Isadore: That's awesome.  

Gabe Calderon: That's just what came to my mind, I was like, yeah so uh. And then I also have a website which is, like if you go on my Instagram and the link tree will have like my website. But you can find my books on, on the website. And then I'll also be posting this podcast as like a link, um, so that people can, they can find the podcast on the website. Or obviously also where this podcast gets aired normally. And then anything upcoming and upcoming events or anything will also be on the website that folks can check out.  

Ceilidh Isadore: That's amazing. Well, I just wanted to say, like, wela'lin, thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for taking the time out of your day and spending time with this beautiful conversation. Being an artist myself and being, you know, a younger youth, I really always looked up to you, and especially if I'm just thinking about you all the time, like I definitely always looked forward to the day I get I got to spend some time with you. So I'm really grateful for this. And I want to thank you again for being so vulnerable and being so open with your your life and your journey and the things that make you who you are. I know it's definitely changing a lot of people's lives and definitely challenging a lot of things. And again, we're showing such great representation and I know these things are definitely going to go down in good history. 

Gabe Calderon: Oh, thank you so much, miigwetch, wela'lin. This was so amazing. I felt like we were sitting together.  

Ceilidh Isadore: I'm so glad.  

Gabe Calderon: Just like sipping coffee and just like, yeah, this is fantastic. I hope one day we actually meet in person.  

Ceilidh Isadore: Yes, yes.  

Gabe Calderon: And yeah. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you.