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Indigenous artists bead their provinces and states in response to open call

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Indigenous artists across North America are taking up a challenge to bead the states and provinces.

Indigenous artists across Canada and the United States are responding to a call to bead provinces and states.(Kooten Creations/Facebook)

Indigenous artists across North America are taking up a challenge to bead their states and provinces.

For Amanda Laliberte, a member of Canoe Lake Cree First Nation from Île à la Crosse, Sask., beading her home province was a must.

"Saskatchewan is the province where I lived most of my life," she said.

"I beaded the prairie lily — also known as the tiger lily — because it is the official flower of Saskatchewan, with green to represent the northern forests and yellow to represent the southern prairies."

Laliberte said she saw the call out on Facebook and thought it was a good challenge as a beginning beader.

"I was happy to see people liked it; it is definitely an encouraging feeling," she said.

The pandemic, she said, has given her more time to practise.

"My late grandmother Alice Aubichon was great at bead working and sewing. As a child, I have seen her make things such as moose hide mitts and moccasins. She had orders from as far as Winnipeg," said Laliberte.

"I remember her small table beside the window where she would bead and sew all day long, unless she was chasing us kids out of her garden for picking all her crabapples. I am fairly new at bead working but I believe I inherited some of her talent and I hope to carry out her legacy."

Dozens of pieces have been submitted since the call out was issued in mid-March, including multiple for some states and provinces. They're shared on Kooteen Creations' Facebook page and Instagram account.(Submitted by Kooteen Creations)

The call out came from CeeJay Johnson, the Dakota and Tlingit artist behind Kooten Creations. She said she knows there are a lot of Indigenous people trying to reconnect with their culture through beadwork but said many struggle with what to bead.

"They need some inspiration or some ideas," she said.

"Sometimes I put out designs, and I thought the state thing would be cool since everyone is in self-isolation or quarantine. It will give people a chance to be artistic, practise some culture, but also be a part of something larger than their couch."

Reconnecting with culture

Mel Compton beaded Newfoundland for the challenge.(Submitted by Mel Compton)

For Mel Compton, a non-status Mi'kmaw woman living in Toronto, beadwork was the first step she took in reclaiming her culture.

She is one of the thousands of people who had their status revoked when they were denied membership in the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation as a result of controversial changes to the agreement that created the landless band. That's why she beaded Newfoundland.

"People on the outside looking in don't realize how significant that impact was, and still is to this day," said Compton.

"I wasn't raised in my culture, and I had to reclaim that when I went to post-secondary."

Dozens of submissions have been made over social media since the call out went out in mid-March.

"It's a really cool way to see which First Nations communities are where, and you can see that represented in some of the pieces," said Compton.

That's the case for Carol Armstrong's submission of New York state.

Armstrong is Seneca and grew up in western New York around Cattaraugus where her father is from, but has been living in Washington state for the last five years.

"New York is always going to be home for me," she said.

Her design included the purple and white Hiawatha belt that represents the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, Confederacy that includes the Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga and Mohawk nations whose traditional territory spans New York state. She added a strawberry in raised beadwork to represent Cattaraugus territory.

"We're still here and I'm going to bead something that shows we're still here," she said.

About the Author

Jessica Deer is Kanien’kehá:ka from Kahnawake. She works in CBC's Indigenous unit based in Montreal. Email her at jessica.deer@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter @Kanhehsiio.

    Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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