Wednesday, March 21, 2012

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Yes, I know.. it's been a long long time since my last post. Life is funny sometimes, it sends you down a road you had no idea you'd be taking until it happens. So are things in my life.

Through a series of events that began last summer, I have found myself making some changes to my life, good changes, scary changes, changes that have been long awaiting, and changes that even though are scary, are meant to be.

It started last summer with a sheet of paper being pushed into my hands by a librarian. She urged me to sign up for a free university level class called Voicing Hamilton. (I know I've mentioned this class in a previous post)

I was one of the chosen to attend the class and as this post shows, I loved the experience! As the classes progressed, I had to decide what my project would be about. What finally became my choice was the history of the native peoples of the area before and after the Europeans arrived up until today. I originally thought I'd write about it, but the more I researched the subject, the more I felt that I had to illustrate my findings. I had done traditional pictograph drawings in the past and was familiar with the method, so that became my medium of expression.

Waters Shining Brightly (Hamilton)
I could not afford a real deer hide so went searching the various fabric stores on Ottawa street for a substitute and finally came across this fabric in a upholstery store. The method I used was circular story telling but I pushed it one further by interlinking the various circular stories to make them a continuous story. I also made both wampum belts and the maps as well as all the babiche (I crocheted tan yarn into thin rope for lashings). The pole was a 15 year old cedar bough that my teacher had saved in his garage for a purpose he did not know but figured it would become apparent in time... and it did.
the handmade book
Even though I had intended on doing a written project originally, I still ended up adding a written component in the form of a book with the various pictographs explained as well as the wampum belts, the maps and the Tree of Peace depicted on the hide.

Once the hide was cut and suspended, I developed a bad case of blank canvas heebeejeebees. I was terrified of applying paint to canvas and making a mistake and not being able to fix it. I asked my spirit to help me get past this stage fright and finally it did pass. I also ended up letting my spirit guide my hand as to which pictograph I used, and how I used it. Any other way refused to work. I'm glad I allowed my spirit to guide my hand as I feel it produced a superior piece that spoke its message to many people in different ways and for that I am thankful.

Waters Shining Brightly
Graduation night came and went in December, the end of the class, but not the end of my personal voyage. I was asked to give the closing remarks at the graduation. Again, I allowed my spirit to guide me while I wrote my speech. After the speech, many came to me and told me they loved what I said. I was glad that I could send the message out for others to receive, that this program is the answer to so many people who have never had the opportunity to attend university.

January 2012 brought an invitation for the students of the class to display their projects at a local coffee house. In turn this brought an invitation to speak to a group of elderly who meet at the coffee house about my project and the program. This was followed by an invitation to speak to the university alumni alongside the professor who taught the class which was well received. And since then, I've been asked to do a guest blog post for the end of April, and also to speak to a group of women on the occasion of  Women's Day after the celebratory dinner (the occasion was delayed). I've also been invited to sit on the steering committee for the McMaster Discovery Program which I've accepted and I look forward to contributing to the continued success of this program. More invitations to display our art pieces have come, the next to be at the central branch of the Hamilton Public Library beginning of April in time for the Art Crawl. Again, I look forward to relating the history of the native peoples in and around Hamilton to as many as I can.

I came away from this program with a special friendship, one that I had not expected but am grateful for. One which I think surprised both parties but was also acknowledged as a natural progression from the class. I also came away from this class with several new friends with which I have kept in contact. And last but not least, I came away with a renewed love of learning, a renewed sense of wonder at finding new knowledge, of exploring areas of study that I had given up on or never knew about.  I also came away with a new sense of value, that I have a voice, that I matter and that I can be a student and do what I want. And all this is leading me towards finding out how I can go to university as a part time student. The field I'm interested in is Indigenous Studies, to continue my journey finding out who I am as a Métis woman.