happy canada day

Images of the St. Michael’s Indian Residential School.

(before it was torn down last year)

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I haven’t shown any of these images publicly prior to this blog post. Even though these rooms were empty, the residue of the past was still present. If these walls could talk they’d have a lot to share with us. I wasn’t quite sure how to show these in a respectful way because these photos are not meant to be liked and shared around on social media. I feel that Tea & Bannock is the safest place to do so. Plus with the Canada Day celebrations happening across the country on July 1st, I want people to remember that this country was founded on indigenous lands. Don’t forget that.

-Amanda Laliberte

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have camera, will shoot

A few years ago, I bought a Fujifilm x100s. I shot for a weekend trip, thought it was adorable, and put it away. It gathered dust in a drawer, until finally, at the end of 2015, I was feeling uninspired. I was thinking about how I wasn’t shooting my life for myself anymore, I was only doing client shoots. I wasn’t snapping the moments between my daughter and I, my friends and I. I wasn’t doing any fun creatives with my girls as models, and or just shooting for fun.

So at the start of January, I made it point to shoot and edit everyday images, as well as start to randomly bring my friends in as models.

I also wanted to challenge myself to only shoot with the Fujifilm for my everyday images, as well as see how it would work during pro-sessions.

In the last year, I finally feel like myself again. I look forward to the moments. I laugh more. I shoot more. My daughter is somewhat sick of me – “No, mommy, no more pictures” – and while I do honour those moments, I love the times where she’s all, “Ok Mommy, take my picture. I’m gonna pose like this!

And my friends – they’ve learned to trust the moments where I want to stop and take pictures because of beautiful light, a great wall of graffiti, a new concept.

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I guess the point of this is to trust your instincts. I took a lot of time off at the end of 2015 to let myself have the chance to “miss” taking pictures. I did what I thought I needed – to put down the camera(s), to enjoy the moment in the now, and to relive it through storytelling and laughter. I would sit through birthday parties without a camera in hand, ignoring the glances sent my way. I would go to events and put away my phone, listening to the music and singing along (badly) without having to Instagram the moment. I refuse to join Snapchat, only downloading it for the filters, then deleting it again before I got sucked in.

And it felt good.

But so does this, now.

Hearing my friend’s happy laughter as I finally say “let’s stop for pictures!” and seeing Aerie using her mini-Polaroid and direct her own little cousins in mini-photo shoots, this feels good. Watching my cousin’s gain confidence and a stronger friendship with me as they stand in front of my lens, trusting me to allow them to look authentic and strong, that feels good.

It’s okay to put the camera down and live in the moment. And it’s okay to pick it right back up again and capture that story.

That’s a storyteller’s life.

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Regarding my Uterus

This post is going to be quite personal and long, just a warning 😉

On June 19, 2016 (Father’s Day of this year) I announced my pregnancy on social media. It will be my husband and I’s first child. What an exciting time of my life, for sure! We told my family on Mother’s Day, and my husband’s family the following weekend. Our sweet little baby is due shortly after Christmas (around New Year’s 2017). I did get a few “finally!”s after I announced the news and it reminded me of something that had been on my mind during these first three months of my pregnancy.

First, I want to start off with saying that I do realize and understand that for the most part people are well-meaning with good intentions. I also realize as my body becomes more publicly pregnant, people will feel free to share their well-meaning advice and comments more openly. I am trying to mentally prepare myself.

Ever since I was 20, I had been asked the question, “when are you and Branden having kids?” (I’ll be 27 when our baby is born). The question popped up more frequently as the years went on. The question itself is innocent enough. I get it, babies are so beautiful, wonderful, and exciting. Everyone loves babies, as they should. The problem was, after awhile I felt so much pressure and guilt  and thought that I SHOULD BE PREGNANT RIGHT NOW, even though (until this year) I didn’t really want to be. [Quick side note: as soon as we decided we were ready to have kids that turned into I WANT TO BE PREGNANT RIGHT NOW, naturally.]

I will admit, there was definitely peak in when I felt the most pressure to become pregnant, and it was when I moved home from Edmonton to the reserve. When I lived in Edmonton, almost all my friends my age were not at that point in their lives of getting married and expanding their families. When I got home, everyone had babies and I didn’t and I often heard from these beautiful people the age old question of when I was getting knocked up. I felt like it was a club of mothers. Mother’s are amazing. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s okay to choose to not be a mother if that is your path.

Women are also beautiful, sacred and powerful beings, and mother and woman are not synonymous nor do they have to be.

I can’t help but feel some resentment for my adult years that I wasn’t a mother. I wish I had been able to enjoy it more without the pressure. There are so many reasons why people may not have children at a time.  Perhaps a relationship (or lack of), or they are going through painful fertility issues and either are having trouble getting pregnant, or are losing their little loves through miscarriage(s). Maybe they just don’t want kids at that time of their lives, they have other things they want to focus on. Whatever the reason, I am very aware of it and it breaks my heart how unaware others are of it. It wouldn’t have been so bad at all if I was able to answer with “maybe next year,” and it was left at that. More often than I care to admit I was given sage advice such as “the clock is ticking,” “don’t wait too long,” “you’re getting old.” Or being asked with incredulity in their voice, “what are you waiting for?”

My least favourite was being told that I won’t be able to have babies because I work out too much, or I’m too skinny, or I needed to gain weight before getting pregnant (of course all not true).

Basically, the advice I was getting throughout my 20s was this: “get pregnant right now because you might not be able to tomorrow.” And it stung, and it sucked, and of course it has riddled me with so many unnecessary fears about my body and what it could do (or not do). I just wanted to yell out to people to leave me and my body alone and that if and when my husband and I both decided to have children, then it is our business, and only ours.

My uterus is mine, as if every other woman’s. What I do with it or what it chooses to do is my business.

I didn’t want the reason for my husband and I to deciding to have children to be “because we were young and fertile.” I really wanted to to be a decision we made without outside influence and pressure, and something that we felt was right for us at that time in our lives. A deep fear was created because it seemed everyone was getting pregnant, either planned or unplanned. I’m going to be honest and say our birth control methods weren’t 100% great and it made me wonder how so many people could get pregnant “accidentally” (I hate that word for little unplanned miracle babies) but we never did. Did it mean we were infertile?! Ridiculous but it seriously ran through my head and I even brought it up to my husband. Ha, silly me, but the culture of fear is there and it exists for young women.

I was lucky and my husband was never one to pressure me and beg me for children. He let me enjoy my passions and pursue whatever I wanted to pursue at anytime, be it weightlifting, photography, computer science – he seriously he rocks. We often talked about children, and hashed out pseudo-plans, daydreamed, etc., but until this year it just never felt like the right time, and I respected that about him and he respected that about me. We were in no rush to grow up, despite being together for over 9 years. It has been so beautiful and wonderful to grow together. To focus on ourselves and building our relationship to what it is. Seriously, it has never felt better and I love that man more deeply than ever.

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12 Weeks Pregnant – more of a food baby belly than a baby belly.

March of this year rolled around and suddenly we were both ready. Maybe it was the Banff mountain air, or my new job that was inspiring us. Whatever our reasons, now was the time we were ready to start trying to grow our family and we were blessed right away. I am sad that I did get an, “Oh! So you CAN have kids, I thought you were broken” comment after I announced my pregnancy. It made me so sad and reminded me of what I had been fighting in my mind these past few years.

It reminds me that people will always have opinions and pre-conceived ideas about what I should and shouldn’t do with my body. Not only my uterus, but every aspect of it. And it’s something many women face.

I will try remind myself that people just love us and love babies and they truly mean no harm, but folks, please try put yourselves into other people’s shoes and try think of things from their perspective. It may be a little enlightening. Please don’t misread my resentment. It is solely geared towards opinion and some unchecked comments by a few that I needed to be pregnant for the past 7 years “or else” mentality. I love mothers and babies and seeing people sharing their pregnancies. In fact, I soaked it right up these past few years. I love seeing beautiful women sharing their stories with their lovely children and their challenges and triumphs. I L-O-V-E it <3.

I do hope to share more of my pregnancy journey on the blog. My due date is January 2, 2017, and I hope I can add a pregnant nehiyaw woman’s insight to this beautiful space of ours. 

 – claudine bull

58th Annual June Sports

This Father’s Day weekend the ‘Namgis First Nation is hosting the 58th Annual June Sports here in Alert Bay, BC, and this little island is super busy! Okay, it isn’t exactly bumper to bumper traffic, but there is noticeably a lot more visitors and families here for the weekend. There are lots of people walking around in their team jerseys, little kids kicking soccer balls in emulation of their big brothers and sisters, and elders watching from the side lines.

On Thursday night, the event started with the 29th Annual Salmon Prince & 58th Annual Salmon Princess Pageant. The pageant is an opportunity for Kwakwaka’wakw youth between the ages of 12-18 years old to demonstrate their pride and cultural knowledge. The contestants stood together in the Big House, and were each judged on their oral presentation and sharing of a song, dance or legend. And each contestant was given extra points for being able to speak in Kwakwala.   

I was raised with such shame around my Indigenous ancestry, and I do not want to pass that shame on to the next generation. I always remind my children to be proud of who they are and where they come from. Even though we are living away from the territory where we come from, we have our own ways of sharing our knowledge with our boys. As a half breed from Saskatchewan, I am honoured to be here raising my children together with these proud Kwakwaka’wakw kids. I am constantly inspired by the youth and children in this community, and on Thursday evening at the pageant I was blown away by the courage of the youth to present themselves in front of hundreds of people in the Big House. Their families and teachers have done well. Oh, and to the young girl who was braiding my hair while I watched the pageant, thank you!

2015 Salmon Prince, Jakob Dawson and Salmon Princess, Shantal Cook.

2015 Salmon Prince, Jakob Dawson and Salmon Princess, Shantal Cook.

Junior Salmon Princess is Hanna Speck.

Junior Salmon Princess is Hanna Speck.

Junior Salmon Prince is Jul

Junior Salmon Prince is Julian Bruce.

Contestant Naomi Triebwasser.

Contestant Naomi Triebwasser.

Contestant Tanisha Williams.

Contestant Tanisha Williams.

Contestant Laura Bullock who is Tanisha's older sister.

Contestant Laura Bullock who is Tanisha’s older sister.

2016 Salmon Princess is Danielle Barnes.

2016 Salmon Princess is Danielle Barnes.

Contestant Dante Willie.

Contestant Dante Willie.

2016 Salmon Prince is Big Boy aka Shane Cook.

2016 Salmon Prince is Big Boy aka Shane Cook.

Helpers, mentors and teachers; Alexis, Pewi and Lauren.

Helpers, mentors and teachers; Alexis, Pewi and Lauren.

Young and younger singers at the log.

Young and younger singers at the log.

Naomi sharing a traditional dance.

Naomi sharing a traditional dance that she was recently handed at the Nolie potlatch.

Laura sharing a traditional ladies dance.

Laura sharing a traditional ladies dance.

Danielle giving a short explanation of the dance she is going to share.

Danielle giving a short explanation of the dance she is going to share.

Tanisha sharing a traditional Kwakwaka'wakw dance.

Tanisha sharing a traditional Kwakwaka’wakw dance.

Shane sharing his favourite dane the Hamatsa.

Shane sharing his favourite dance the Hamatsa.

Dante sharing a tradiitonal Kwakwaka'wakw dance.

Dante sharing a traditional Kwakwaka’wakw dance.

The retiring Salmon Princess and Prince, all candidates and Junior Salmon Prince and Prince dance to a song during the blanket dance. The money raised from the blanket goes towards a scholarship fund for each successful candidate.

The retiring Salmon Princess and Prince, all candidates and Junior Salmon Prince and Princess dance to a song during the blanket dance. The money raised from the blanket goes towards a scholarship fund for each successful candidate.

-Amanda Laliberte

#ThrowbackThursday

I’m calling this #ThrowbackThursday because it’s Thursday and this is a throwback to 5 years ago when I got to go to Dawson City, Yukon for a 5 week residency at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture.

Next week, I’m heading back for a solo exhibition at ODD Gallery showing some work I created during that residency and I find myself reflecting on the time I spent there. It was September/October 2011, the tourists had left and the darkness of winter was creeping in. Since then, it has been a dream of mine to experience the summer months, when it’s just as beautiful and a lot busier, I’m sure.

Here are some snapshots of the beautiful territory of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in from 2011:

 

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One of the highlights of that trip was finding myself at a dinner with Thomas King and Sharon Shorty aka Gramma Susie. I remember texting my cousin Mika saying “I’m going to dinner with Thomas King! What should I ask him?!” …only in Dawson.

 

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-JT Arcand

Bridging Cultures through “Native Fashion Now”

As Indigenous artists, we are beginning to ignite quite the spark in the fashion industry, and the synergy between Art and Native Culture is getting stronger. This is our time, and it couldn’t have been more apparent then at the “Native Fashion Now” event in Portland, Oregon’s prestigious Art Museum. It is with incredible honour to be participating, yet alone invited, to such a large scale event among dozens of emerging and established designers; pushing the boundaries and giving new meaning to “Native Fashion.” Words such as: Pathbreakers, Revisitors, Activators, Provocateurs, and Motivators were scattered throughout, representing the many themes infused within the art.

The exhibit, flooded with exceptional talent, offers a platform for many rising artists to showcase and represent themselves in a respectable and fashionable way. From Haute Couture to Street Chic, designers certainly didn’t hold back their identities and political views – showcased and revealed in many of the pieces. One of the very first artists I was introduced to was Navajo Clothing Label Designer Jared Yazzie. His prints deliver a striking urban native look along with a strong political message – most know-table in his “Native Americans discovered Columbus” T-Shirt under the Label OXDX.

However, It was Orlando Dugi’s couture dress, featured below, that gave the show a ton of sizzle and pure, current native expression. With his vibrant colours and exquisite craftsmanship, Olando brought an element of glamour and “high fashion” to the exhibit. What I loved most about his piece was that it offered a unique spin on contemporary adornment, combining traditional elements such as feathers with other cultural mediums such as african quills intertwined in avant guard way.

Part of what makes this exhibit so wonderful is the accumulated efforts of all the artists involved, proudly highlighting their identities and acknowledging traditional, cultural and political statements beyond the beauty of their work. The event allowed us to bridge and give voice to the many different cultures throughout North America, all gathered in one place as a community. Because after all – we are stronger together. Captured within the exhibit is a blending of our two worlds – the modern and traditional through our personal artistic lens. A chance, for many of us to stand tall and proud of our accomplishments and recognize our incredible light as indigenous artists; capable of great heights. For once, it truly felt like we were making a mark in our economic society, and taken seriously as innovative designers relevant with today’s fashion.

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Rather than watching other designers represent our culture down the runway and in the mainstream media, It is refreshing to see First Nations stepping up and creatively expressing ourselves in the big fashion world. So for those of you in the Portland area, I hightly recommend checking out and supporting this truly inspiring exhibit running from June 4th – Sept. 4th. Hopefully this exhibit will not only inspire other native artists, but encourage those to look at “Native Inspired” pieces with a little more scrutiny when shopping and supporting other designers and re-focus the attention on authentic  representations of native designs and labels.

 

 

Joy District

Recently I was excited because not only was I going to be able to attend a concert to support efforts to #SaveTheWalbran – but I was also going to connect for an interview and photo session with the incomparable Kinnie Starr (More on that in a future post).

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Fulford Community Hall, Salt Spring Island

 

Instead, hanging around sound check I met Tim.

Tim, Joy District Secret Weapon

Tim is your typical islander. A long-talker. He’s equally quick with a smile, a good tale, a hearty laugh and always has a good dose of teasing at the ready. I liked him immediately. He said he was a driver for one of the bands performing that night: Joy District.

Tim, may drive their bus, but he is really their secret weapon. Less than five minutes of talking to Tim and you HAVE to meet the band. Just to see if he really does drive for musical genius’ with hearts of gold.

So my original plan took a serendipitous turn to my first (and hopefully not my last) interview with brothers Eli and Jordi Hilberry and lifelong friends Lenny Parkin and Keelan Gamble of Joy District.

Having spoken to the band at length over dinner, and listened to them play that night, Tim was right. They’re the real deal. If they keep going like this, Joy District has the potential to be the soundtrack for a new generation.

Joy District on stage 2016 by Jessica WoodThat’s not a bad thing because they’re the kind of Canadian act you root for. Drummer Keelan Gamble spoke highly about not only about volunteering their act to the #SaveTheWalbran Tour, but also of their involvement in the Jellyfish Project. A non-profit organization that uses music, live performance, and learning resources to generate awareness and provide education on ocean sustainability, climate change and environmental stewardship.

“We feel good about being invested in the issues through music. It’s important to have this discussion in high schools. And it’s cool to be able to do something positive with the music. Rather than just play in a bar, we get to connect with hundreds of kids who are so stoked we’re there.”
~Keelan Gamble, Drummer,  Joy District

They really came to the attention of Industry and the public when they entered the Peak’s Performance Project. “Everything we’re doing now is because of that music contest.” The Peak Music Project is designed to launch the careers of up and coming music artist.

They were definitely the underdogs – never having played a show as Joy District and with less than 500 likes on Facebook (Population of Denman Island? 1,016) they made the 2015 top twelve. Now they’ve shared the stage with Mother Mother, Bedouin Soundclash, Head of the Heard, The Boom Booms, and most recently, Kinnie Starr.

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They aren’t gong to stop there.  They are the tree planting, socially conscious, grounded island guys who grew up together, and whose talent has been spurned of creative freedom only a rural island town can cultivate.

I’m looking forward to following their careers as they put together and album and refine their songwriting and continue to develop their own sound as well as seeing how they continue to use their music as a way to support important environmental issues.

*For more information on supporting efforts to protect the Walbran Valley, check out Friends of Carmanah Valley: 

Friends of Carmanah / Walbran recognize the Walbran Valley/Kaxi:ks as the traditional territory of the Nuu-cha-nulth peoples . We are a grassroots, 100% volunteer run collective of individuals working to gain protection for these ancient forests and to develop sustainable economic alternatives for local communities.

#FindYourJoyDistrict

Joy District on stage by Jessica Wood 2016 Lenny