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Joleen Mitton on Championing Indigenous Communities

Episode 5: Renowned Indigenous Changemaker, Joleen Mitton (Miskinahk), is leading the way through a combination of fashion, youth work, and basketball

As a producer and social architect working in and around Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Səl̓ilwətaɁɬ, and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Unceded Territory, Joleen Mitton ( Miskinahk) is all about celebrating and making visible Indigenous peoples at a high level. Forever moving between her skillset to produce campaigns and projects, Joleen inspires us with her breadth of passion.

In this interview, we hear Joleen discuss why she engages with arts and culture to generate power within her community with our host for this episode, Cyd Eva of Pattern Nation Fashion Brand. They discuss the importance of decolonizing culture, as well as the role mentors and land-based wisdom play in Joleen embodying the humble mindset she has today.


Photo by @alanapaterson

Having worked as a model for almost two decades, Joleen tells us about her desire to remedy the ill-treatment she had experienced within the industry. Working with her friend Patrick Shannon, they founded Supernaturals modeling agency; an Indigenous boutique modeling agency with a focus on healthy and high-end cultural representation. In this way, Joleen explains how they are trying to remedy fashion "with indigenous world views and [create] a family orientated agency that cares about the people who are in the agency, making sure they feel supported." This intention is something we hear host Cyd Eva and Joleen discuss further, advocating for independent businesses and how to restructure the fashion industry as a whole.

Its about answering the call for me, that's what led me into everything I'm doing... youth and foster care, remedying fashion with indigenous world views. I'm just trying to remedy all these situations

L-R: Joleen with Patrick Shannon, Photo @tirawan, Jacket Designer @j.okuma

Alongside this huge undertaking, Joleen also founded Vancouver Indigenious Fashion Week showcasing clothing designed by local Indigenous Designers, worn by models of First Nation/Metis and Inuit descent. One of the main reasons for Joleen starting this annual event is because of the lack of visibility she experienced, "back in the day you wouldn't see Indigenous people out". In a bid to showcase the beautiful designs she would see her Aunties and Mother wearing, from Moccasins to beaded necklaces, Joleen decided totry and make these designs more visible in the mainstream. Creating the fashion show and modeling agency are two examples of how Joleen is laying down the foundations for further development in the future."This is the beauty of clothing; how it can transform you and give you powers". Within this embodiment of power, Joleen explains how she uses "fashion as a vehicle to talk about a bigger issue - racism, genocide, all these hard topics that non-Indigenous people or settler people don't want to talk about".

It's about using fashion as a vehicle to talk about a bigger issue - racism, genocide, all these hard topics that non-Indigenous people or settler people don't want to talk about

L-R: Designer @korinaemmerich Photo @heypatrickshannon, Designer Reg Davidson & @dahliadriveclothing Photo @sidesquash, Designer @yaahlguudtsai Photo @angelafama Hair @withloveamber

Joleen interweaves these worlds by using fashion as a way to engage with youth. She deidcates time to developing and facilitating programs and projects in her community such as the Indigenous Urban Butterflies Day Camp, a program for children in foster care. The importance of community is something that shines through in Joleen's stories telling us about the role her elders have in mentorship and recognising the value of others. She tells us how this also involves a process of naming which led to her being given the name 'mountain mover'.

That's the thing about community, you get recognised for the thing you've done

The presence of togetherness is also apparent in Joleen's passion for basketball. As an active member of All My Relations women's team (AMR), Joleen is a pure example of what active change looks like within the competitive world of sports. As a team, AMR are focused on creating and preserving safe spaces for Indigenous players in the community. Offering an active example of how teamwork can lead to greater accomplishments.

Tune into the full podcast and learn aboutt the multitude of passion behind Joleen's work and the incredible work she is doing across industries, generations, and genres.

L-R: Joleen with Pam Baker @himikalas, and with AMR,

Photo @vancouverbasketballfoundation

Meet Joleen's Sassy Side

When do you feel most confident?

When I'm with my basketball team

What key experience has shaped you positively?

Leaving East Vancouver

One dream you wish to come true?

To see my kids feel comfortable in a city they belong to

Name a cause that is close to your heart?

Oh my god, one?! Save the water - no pipelines, no problems.

What's the best thing about being you?

I think the fact that I can move into any kind of situation, it's helped my career. So being a chameleon is the coolest thing, I think it gets me through a lot of things.


Interview by Cyd Eva of Pattern Nation

Keep up to date with Joleen's work via IG @joleenmiskinahk , nn All My Relations Basketball team or via Vancouver Indigenious Fashion Week

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