Resilience and belonging: 7 artists reflect on National Indigenous History Month

The seven artists who showcase their artistic talents in June during National Indigenous History Month are, from top left clockwise: Jacenia Desmoulin, Patrick Hunter, Naomi Peters, Ziibiikwans, Mikaila Stevens , Brent Beauchamp and Simon Brascoupé. (Jacenia Desmoulin, Bliss Thompson, Naomi Peters, Lucas Dunkley, Mikaila Stevens, Brent Beauchamp, Jean Levac)

June is National Indigenous History Month, and CBC Ontario has partnered with seven Indigenous artists to showcase the wealth of talent, diversity and culture across the province.

Through illustration, each artist portrays their interpretation of the community, National Indigenous History Month (NIHM) and National Indigenous Peoples Day (NIPD).

Note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Jacenia Desmoulin, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation, Anishnaabe artist, graphic designer

The Meaning of Seven by Jacenia Desmoulin. (Jacenia Desmoulin)

Please share the inspiration behind your design.
I chose these characters because they are known and recognized teachings. They merge and continue into each other: Turtle Island, the seventh prophecy of fire, the seven teachings of the grandfather and seven generations.

What does this design represent?
We are one people and the reserves from which we come are not our history. This is representative of all Anishnaabe, these are Anishinaabe stories. These stories and teachings teach us about the lessons we must follow to ensure the health and prosperity of many generations to come.

What does NIPD / NIHM mean to you?
For me, National Indigenous Peoples Day and History Month are a celebration of our resilience and strength. Hopefully one day our history will be taught in history lessons and our authors read and explored in English lessons. I would love to see all of our knowledge taught, learned and recognized every day in all educational and professional contexts.

Patrick Hunter, Red Lake, Two-Spirit Ojibway Landscape Painter, Graphic Designer, Entrepreneur

Red Lake Pride by Patrick Hunter. (Patrick Chasseur)

My people will sleep a hundred years, but when they wake up, it will be the artists who will give them back their spirit.-Louis Riel, July 4, 1885

How does this design represent your interpretation of community?
Seven communities surround Red Lake in the district, illustrated by the trees above the water beside which the communities sit. Back home we are surrounded by lakes, trees and rocks. There really isn’t much else to look at, but everyone who lives there thinks it’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Why does this design make sense to you?
June is also Pride Month in Red Lake, which my community recently started celebrating. As a member of the LGBTQ2S community, I wanted to represent this fact with a rainbow behind the trees, as it not only represents the pride of Red Lake of its LGBTQ2S citizens, but also the pride of where we are from.

What style of art appeals to you?
The style of art I do is called Woodland Art, but I also consider myself a landscape painter. To see Woodland Art, you have to pretend you have x-ray glasses, and you can see the spirit of what you are looking at.

Naomi Peters, Caldwell, Leamington, Potawatomi First Nation and artist-author Chippewa

The Story Looks To The Future by Naomi Peters. (Naomi Peters)

What does NIHM / NIPD mean to you?
For me, National Indigenous Peoples Day is a day of visibility for our people, where there are more opportunities for people to learn more about North American culture. Personally, it’s a day that I feel blessed with who I am and where our people are going. I hope this is a day for all Aboriginal people to practice reflecting on the past and to learn to love their identity as Aboriginal people.

Please explain the meaning of your design.
I am a Potawatomi and Chippewa person; my grandfather was Potawatomi and my grandmother Chippewa. For this reason, I have styled clothes in my room to be representative of the Ojibway people. The concept represents three distinct generations, with the older generations fading into the background, while the younger generation takes center stage.

Why does this design make sense to you?
With the various Indigenous facial features in my designs, I specifically wanted to portray Indigenous peoples as they might be portrayed today. As important as our story is to us, like everyone else, we step back in time and live our everyday lives now. So, although we respect our culture and perpetuate it, we are not people of the past and cannot be portrayed only with historical images.

Ziibiikwans, First Nations of Walpole Island, unceded territory of Bkejwanong, Ojibway interdisciplinary artist specializing in digital illustration

The rocks of Ziibiikwans. (Ziibiikwans)

What inspired you to create this design?
The inspiration behind this piece comes from my favorite memories of being on Walpole Island. Growing up, I spent a lot of time at “The Rocks” on Walpole Island, with friends hopping off the breakwater, fishing underwater with my dad, eating pizza with my cousins ​​and looking for food. the sandbank with my brother. I chose to use very saturated colors to demonstrate the playful and active energy that the environment and people have when spending time here.

Why is this area so important to you?
He represents the positive, loving and interconnected community of Walpole Island. Everyone at one point or another has spent time here, and it has become a central and special landmark for our community. ‘The Rocks’ represents my community because Walpole Island is deeply connected to the water that surrounds it.

What does Bkejwanong mean and why is it important?
Bkejwanong means: Where the waters divide. The stacked rocks and the linear formation separating the water represent the island on which we share our lives. The relationship between land and water gives us the foundation for a good life in Walpole, and I think my community prioritizes the importance of honoring this relationship.

Mikaila Stevens, Eskasoni Mi’Kmaw Nation, Cape Breton, London, Ont. Perle Mi’kmaq, screenprint, designer

Mikaila Stevens cycles. (Mikaila Stevens)

How does this work represent your own journey?
My family is from Eskasoni, Nova Scotia, I grew up in Kamloops, BC in the Shuswap community, and I now live in London working in the Anishinaabe community as a youth mentor. At one point in my life, I was ashamed of who I was. I didn’t feel welcome on this land because it never felt like it belonged to my feet. It took me a long time, and I still do, to open up to learning and embracing my Mi’kmaq heritage. One of the first steps was learning about the generational trauma, how it affected my family in different ways, and how I had to let go of feeling unwelcome in a culture where the door was always open to me.

What does NIPD / NIHM mean to you?
For me, that means taking the time to reflect on our culture and the communities around us. It means existing as an indigenous people in a modern landscape as we continue to learn from year to year. Much of what we do today uses lessons and connections from our past to make the most of our future. As the earth moves around us, we have a responsibility to take care of it and take care of each other along the way.

How are these teachings and connections reflected in your design?
By incorporating the intention of the sunrise and the moon setting cyclically, it reminds us that as the world turns, we walk on the land our ancestors walked before us, and generations will come after. we. I use a lot of colors in my artwork that aren’t always considered earth tones, but you can see them in the vibrant blues of water glistening in the sun, or wildflowers deep in the woods. Dynamism is all around us, especially in nature, and I love being able to showcase these aspects together!

Brent Beauchamp, Six Nations the Grand River, Onondaga and Anishinaabe graphic design student

The spirit of the people of Brent Beauchamp. (Brent Beauchamp)

What is the inspiration behind your design?
The colors of the character badges are representative of the culture (colored with beautiful patterns). I put the two women in the middle, beaming with laughter and happiness, for Six Nations is a matrilineal community with women and clan mothers as leaders. The characters around represent cultural strength and resilience. Lacrosse is known as The Creators Game and is an integral part of the community. The little girl and the man represent the knowledge and teachings passed down from generation to generation.

How does this illustration reflect the teachings of your community?
WWe are taught to think seven generations before us, and to come, when we pass on tradition and ceremony through oral teaching. Respect for mother earth is represented by the small plant, displayed near the center of the image. The dancers on the sides are Grass Dancers and wear a Jingle Dress. All of these aspects are representative of my community.

What does NIPD / NIHM mean to you?
For me, it should be about family, community and culture. These are general, multi-faceted concepts that I think people can interpret in their own way. This is how I gather my own inspiration; it comes from a sense of community, family and culture.

Simon Brascoupe, Algonquin Territory, Ottawa, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg artist-educators

Amik (Castor) creates the Anishinaabe territory by Simon Brascoupé. (Simon Brascoupé)

Please explain the meaning of your design.
This work is titled Amik (beaver) creates an Anishinaabe territory. The beaver is a formidable ecosystem engineer responsible for shaping the traditional Algonquin territory. Imagine the beaver barring small streams and rivers for hundreds and thousands of years, gradually shaping ponds and lakes that created the land and ecosystem we all know in Ontario and Quebec.

How does your art style honor your heritage?
The technique used is the stencil or stencil technique which honors the traditional Algonquin birch bark patterns used by the ancient Algonquin birch bark basket makers. Birch bark patterns or cutouts are used to create original works of art.

What does NIPD / NIHM mean to you?
National Indigenous Peoples Day and National Indigenous History Month are an opportunity to teach Canadians something they don’t know about the culture and history of Indigenous peoples.

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