My bead work and shawl making have provided me with the opportunity to create pieces representing my cultural knowledge to share with others. Art allows the possibility of moderating discussions of challenging topics such as cultural differences, health issues, or loss, recovery and renewal. Often, I am invited to share an educational presentation in regard to my work which frequently allows discussions that may lead to an increase in sharing and an understanding of the purpose of each piece. A second goal is to share cultural differences of the American Indian/Native American population to develop an awareness of the values and beliefs that are taught and practiced within the culture which is reflected in various pieces of art.
Since I was young, I was able to learning from other tribal artists which afforded me valuable life lessons from individuals of all ages. I recall the Elders sharing with my Mother that they thought I had an ‘old sole’ meaning I was more aware of life lessons than others my age. They not only taught me art, but the art of living. I learned different methods of beadwork and shawl making, but I learned the history of our tribal nation, how to protect myself with knowledge, how to share and care, and mostly how to be an American Indian woman.
My work represents times of joy, excitement, history, grieving and healing. Each piece I create tells a story of the purpose of a piece and communicates what is occurring in my life at the time. For example, I have made a Red Dress Shawl with the symbols of the American Heart Association (AHA) Red Dress design which symbolizes and communicates to women the importance of being aware of heart health issues. However, the day I completed this particular shawl, was the same day my sister-in-law died. This is an example of sharing the purpose of the shawl and the impact of a life event I experienced at that time.
Our tribal nation had a wonderful time with the AHA Red Dress event in our community. The planning committee made the decision to reverse the words to Dress Red Day. The change allowed all in the community to participate. Men, children and women participated in the fashion show. As they walked the run way, instead of a description of the clothing they were wearing, each shared a statement of who they were walking for; someone experiencing the disease processes or someone who ‘walked on’ died from the disease. After the fashion show, I was invited to present facts about the impact the disease has on women specifically. Also, photo panels were display of the Healing through Culture and Art shawl collection which I created. This is an example of the tribal way of inclusion.
I am pleased I have been offered the opportunity to share my artwork, knowledge, and lessons I have learned of heart disease with others.. Miigwetch (thank you)