Hamilton Volkswagen car controversy on National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

Hamilton Volkswagen has apologized to an Indigenous artist after posting a social media photo of a 2024 Atlas beside her new art installation by the city’s waterfront in connection with the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

The car company faced online shaming and accusations of exploiting her artwork to promote the company on social media this week and has since taken down the post from its Instagram account.

According to non-profit Hamilton arts service organization CoBALT CONNECTS, the company is working with artist Angela DeMontigney to craft a public apology for the misstep in advertising.

CoBALT CONNECTS called out the company by sharing a screenshot from the Hamilton Volkswagen Instagram page, showing that the company had taken a photo of the Atlas vehicle in front of DeMontigney’s newly-unveiled artwork with the caption: “In honour of yesterday being #NationalDayforTruthAndReconciliation – here’s a glimpse of our 2024 Atlas beside a new local masterpiece, representing Indigenous Relations. Located in Hamiltons (sic) West Harbour, you can find this art installation named “All Our Relations’ led by Indigenous artist, Angela DeMontigny.”

CoBALT CONNECTS said Hamilton Volkswagen drove past a barrier into the event, snapped a photo of the vehicle in front of the art installation, and left.

Furthermore, CoBALT CONNECTS called out Hamilton Volkswagen for not tagging the artist in the post, while featuring the car front and centre, with DeMontigney’s artwork barely visible in the background.

Social media users were quick to call out the company for what they called an exploitative post that was “incredibly offensive.”

Commenters wondered how showing off one of their new vehicles was considered reconciliation, while others called it inappropriate and said the company should be ashamed.

The Two Row Times has reached out to both Hamilton Volkswagen and Angela DeMontigney for comment.

DeMontigney is an award-winning Indigenous fashion designer, artist and entrepreneur.

Her art installation was unrelieved on Hamilton’s waterfront this past weekend, at the foot of James Street North.

The tall art installation consists of five panels depicting Indigenous imagery and culture such as plants, grandfather sun, grandmother moon, winged creatures, a wampum belt, and swimming creatures.

Her artwork was praised by Hamilton Ward Three Coun. Nrinder Nann who said, “The piece truly shines with the sun. If you haven’t had the chance to see it yet in person, I encourage you to do so.”

In terms of Truth and Reconciliation, Nann said, “The key learning in acknowledging National Truth and Reconciliation Day, like every other day, is to understand the continued harms that Indigenous peoples, Metis and Inuit of Turtle Island face as a result of colonization. We must also celebrate the resilience, creativity and vitality that Indigenous communities share (in Ward Three) and the greater Hamilton community.”

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