“For me, dance has provided a protective environment to address the limitations placed on our Indigenous peoples and to create a healing space.”
I treasure dance as the most significant inheritance I have from my ancestors and the creative process is invaluable. I have dedicated myself to this large undertaking for the benefit of my children and to honour my indigenous heritage. I feel fortunate to be able to establish our artistic practices within the greater community and affirm our ability to regain our ancestral legacy in all its intricacy and eminence.
For me, dance has provided a protective environment to address the limitations placed on our Indigenous peoples and to create a healing space. Our bodies, our thoughts, our emotional attachments and our prayers are connected through the ceremony of dance. We are not only turning to our ancestral knowledge for our own reconciliation but we are sharing and supporting others through our art.
The artistic work of the previous era in my family’s lineage was in response to the lifting of the Potlatch ban and what was referred to as the slow awakening of a culture that was made to sleep for almost 70 years. Current social context has led to a critical stage in this long narrative of artistic practice. We find that we must evolve to meet the challenges of preserving the integrity and essence of ancient practices while responding to contemporary circumstances. The present creative processes will make certain that this essential progression will engage and respond resolutely with the responsibility of carrying forward what has been established by our predecessors, while defining the current legacy to be upheld.
Margaret Grenier is a Gitxsan/Cree dancer living in West Vancouver, B.C.
“My work may not be displayed in museums and galleries, but it does go on display every weekend from New Brunswick all the way to California and everywhere in between.”
I am an Ojibwe artist specializing in the area of custom beadwork and regalia making. I have been actively creating for 27 years. I consider myself to be a self-taught multi disciplinary artist. Powwow and it's culture is my main inspiration that has fuelled my artistic career. Among all things, beadwork is my passion. I enjoy experimenting with different types of beads, colors, and patterns. I have experience with both geometric and floral beadworking but being of Ojibwe decent, floral is what defines me. I enjoy incorporating natural components that were used historically, such as: shells, horse hair, porupine hair, quills, brass studs, bones, and birchbark. My work is well known for its quailty and use of color. My skills have definitely evolved over the last 2 decades and have since made a shift toward the older style of Ojibwe beadwork and patterns. My work may not be displayed in museums and galleries, but it does go on display every weekend from New Brunswick all the way to California and everywhere in between. I don’t have a degreee in fine arts, nor have I taken any formal arts training. My skills and artisitc abilities are those that cannot be learned in a classroom. It is the result of a lifetime of dedication, practise and a commitment to preservation. It is artwork that is admired by all people but most valued by my people. I will continue to challenge my abilities, nurture my gifts and preserve our culture through the arts.
Shannon Gustafson is an Ojibwe fine craft artist from Fort William First Nation, Ontario.
Northwestern Ontario, Thunder Bay and District, Great Lakes/Woodlands
Fort William First Nation, ON
Louise Bernice Halfe
“I write these stories in hopes that it will help others to articulate the violence that has been perpetrated in their lives; shame, guilt and anger are braided and have a powerful hold on a person.”
I am a Cree poet, writer and author of four books of poetry and have been published in various anthologies. The books are as follows: Bear Bones and Feathers, speaks to the residential school impact on the community as well as of personal nature. The book also addresses the teachings of the old people and what still needs to be preserved. There are also letters of retaliation to the Vatican. Blue Marrow is a book of imagined relations with the newcomers as told through the various voices of imagined aboriginal women of the fur trade era. The Crooked Good is a narrative poem of the sacred legend of the Rolling Head. It is told through the voice of the mother who weaves the story from a Cree feminist perspective. Burning In This Midnight Dream was written after the Truth and Reconciliation events took shape throughout the country. The book is written from the personal thereby more intimate and immediate. It addresses lateral and horizontal violence though none of this sterilized jargon is utilized rather they are stories that have shaped history and the personal lives of residential school survivors.
I write these stories in hopes that it will help others to articulate the violence that has been perpetrated in their lives; shame, guilt and anger are braided and have a powerful hold on a person. It is my hope in sharing these stories in a poetic voice that more people will step up and demand from the government the resources that are needed to educate and help our communities heal. These poetic stories also record some of the untold history of the ancestors; these stories are fast disappearing as our Elders are fewer in numbers. The Canadian public as well need to be educated about the policies that we all inherited; these have silenced and crippled our communities. We all have a responsibility not only to share the history but to do something about it. This is my way of contributing to hope and to awareness.
Louise Halfe is a Cree poet from Saddle Lake, Alberta.