Jackie Fawn: A Native American/Filipino Woman Challenging Injustice through Artivism

Jackie is a Native American (Yurok and Wahsho) and Filipino, indigenous and environmental activist, and artist currently living in Ventura, California. I had the pleasure of sharing a ride with her to and from the 2015 CSSC Fall Leadership Retreat and she is one of the most energizing and engaging people I have had a chance to spend a road-trip with. On the ride, she had a bag full of zines filled with her artwork, ready to hand out to other Leadership Retreat attendees; each included piece had a compelling story of a call-to-action in them.  She was quick and eager to tell the stories behind the art and give credit to the people and the movements that inspired them.  In March of 2016, Jackie let me interview her.

What made you decided to go to the CSSC Leadership Retreat?

Jaime* invited me out to the retreat and said it was something that I would be interested in. It was an incredible and welcoming space that made me gain a better concept around sustainability. Sustainability is something that I would love to embrace more for any form of actions in the sense of – let’s say there’s a weekend long action for protecting rivers and the support group is handing out Nestle water bottles to the activists, to me that’s not right. I’m not for one time use bottles that support big corporations that are part of  macro problems.Even if it’s little changes, like water bottles, it makes a difference not only in using less plastic, but by not supporting those corporations. Because of my time at the CSSC leadership retreat, I learned new perspectives and made incredible new friends and I can’t wait to shut stuff down with everyone I met. I am really hopeful to attend the next one.

*Jaime is a member of the CSSC Board of Directors

Solidarity Action led by Jackie at the CSSC Fall Leadership Retreat

“This solidarity piece is for my friends in Hawaii and their fight for Mauna Kea. Right now there’s a telescope planning to be built on a sacred sight, which makes no sense to me! The woman portrayed was inspired by the Hawaiian snow goddess Poli’ahu.”

When did you first start getting interested in making art?

When I was 6, a classmate that I sat next to was drawing casually and I thought, “Wow, you can draw for fun?!” That’s when I truly was intrigued in practicing art and it was an incredible escape for my imagination.  I was introduced to Photoshop when I was 12 and started heavily practicing digital art when I was 16, that’s when my dad got me a graphic tablet for me.

Do you feel that art helps you communicate in ways beyond words?

For sure! Art has always been there for me. I feel like my strongest way of communication to have people listen to me is to make a visual for people to see. I get lost in words when my passion for a subject takes over and I heavily rely on my art to help me explain what I’m trying to get across. When I get into creating an illustration, I first think of the story and how I can capture such big issues and stories into a single image. I give big credit to all my English teachers in high school that were big on symbolism, which I didn’t care much for in school but I now heavily use in each image.

So from what I see on Facebook, it looks like you’ve been doing some traveling! What have you been up to?

Ahh, yes! I’ve been trying to get much traveling in as possible. Arizona has been incredible and welcoming from the O’otham/Pima territory to the San Carlos Apache territory. I had the honor to run with them for their sacred sites, Oak Flat and Moahdak Do’ag. This past week I was able to train with Greenpeace for the action training out in Florida for actions climbing. I’ve been trying to get all the experience I can to make new relationships, the more people standing together the bigger the difference!

 Jackie in a tree, displaying a banner at the Greenpeace actions camp with her mock action crew. 

How did you first get involved in this type of work?

I got interested in the idea of activism when I canvassed for an LGBT campaign but got truly invested into the world of activism when I canvassed with Greenpeace in Sacramento. From there I started showing my art and talked to everyone there. Mary Zieser, an incredible activist and warrior, was working for Greenpeace after I left the office and had invited me out to the Greenpeace arts actions training tract. That’s where I started getting into the feel of using my art to make a difference.

What was one of the most powerful gatherings you’ve attended? Why was it so powerful?

Every event I’ve been to has been incredibly powerful, but for me it must’ve been the first one. Last spring I attended a healing gathering with my dad. For our people, healing is important. I was able to heal my mindset of my need to get away from home as far as possible, now I find myself wanting to return home ASAP. I started dreaming of the Klamath, the redwoods, and the salmon more often awake than asleep. This ceremony to me was important because it was my first sweat and I had the honor of being lead by two elders that gave me the answers I needed so desperately. Because of that moment in my life, I do what I do.

“…This piece is about my home, Klamath. We need to un-dam that river and revive the lifeline that is under siege. I grew up fishing on that river with my dad, generations of my people before me as well. Rivers are the veins of the planet!”

Can you tell me a bit about how your heritage has propelled you forward into different types of action?

I definitely feel and know in my heart that because of my ancestral roots, it’s not only an obligation but it is in my blood that I have to take a stand not for my people, but with my people. When I was a kid I wanted to run as far away as I could from home, but the further I ran the more I saw how afflicted other communities were and the all of the heart breaking struggles. Because of that, I started realizing how important it is to take a stand for indigenous issues and have your voice heard. The river and ocean, the salmon, the redwoods, it’s in my people’s blood and it’s because of all that richness of the natural world engraved in my people’s roots, I can find the strength and courage to put myself out there. Many people forget that there are people indigenous to this land still living here and that we are not sitting back any longer having the little left, taken from us. I am honored and blessed to take that stand with my brother and sister nations as well as my own. I am still all new to this world of activism but I trust what my heart is telling me to do because of what’s at stake. And because of this growing need to stand, I am looking into moving back north and applying for Humboldt State University.

A piece Jackie did for World Wildlife Day: “The story behind this one was inspired by the story of the blind men and the elephant. The six men were each given a different part of the elephant to describe and all it brought about was unending arguments over who was right. The six butterflies in this piece represent their respective continents and while the world is in disagreements over such issues, the elephants are still suffering. The child presented is the only who can see the beauty and importance of the elephant with no judgement. We are losing our elephants at an alarming rate. To protect our futures and our children, we must protect our elephants and all wildlife.”

How does your appreciation for the environment tie in to where you grew up?

My fondest memories was when my parents would leave us with our auntie Pam, who lived on a hill nestled beneath the redwood as well as late summer and early fall days my father would take us fishing for salmon along the Klamath. Being the daughter of a fisherman and learning of the secrets hidden amongst the redwood as a child has stayed with me and has been a constant reminder of why I must continue to stand so that I can share these memories with future generations where they can experience it personally rather than a story of the past.

If you would like to stay up-to-date on Jackie’s work please like Jackie Fawn Illustrations on Facebook!


Posted in California Student Sustainability Coalition Magazine.