Children, their Sacredness, and Social Media Privacy

I had trouble coming up with a title to encompass what I want to say/share with this blog post. First, let me preface by saying that these are feeling I have regarding my child, and do what you feel is best for your own family, based on your own beliefs, and family values. 

What I’m about to discuss is nothing knew, and, as with everything in this crazy kingdom of parenthood, comes with its own vastly differing opinions. When I had my daughter I had no trouble sharing images of her all over the internet. In fact I could barely wait (as could family members, who begged me). I grew up as a teen in the age of social media emergence (hello, Nexopia account and MSN Messenger), and it is just so normal, to share.

Now its the Social Media Kings that we share on: Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. So, I shared. I love social media and the connections you can make, the sense of sisterhood gained in shared everyday experiences. How you can read something that someone else is going through and just relate and say, “Hey, I could have wrote this myself!,” which is so important in that lonely post-partum year, or two, or three. When you’re (mostly) alone with this one little person who can’t walk, talk, or in the beginning even focus their eyes on you, you want to reach out to other mothers, share experiences, find some belonging in a community. Social media is the easiest way. That, and of course everyone’s own baby is the cutest, cleverest, most brilliant baby they’ve ever met (insert wink).

I’ve “met” so many wonderful people by sharing mine and Alba’s stories, and experiences. Our first year was a good one. I have mom friends all over the world (mostly North America), a lot of these due to me sharing, quite openly, Alba’s photos and our experiences. But, the more I shared, and the closer we got to Alba’s 1st Birthday, the more uncomfortable I got with it. The older and more busy Alba got, the more uneasy I became. When the very first thing I hear from people when they see Alba is, “I see you all over Facebook” (or something along those lines), it really is a bit of a wake up. It made me take a good step back.

Children are good medicine. I got a great reminder of this by reading something from a friend who is about to have her own beautiful baby (and will not be sharing images). She reminded me of how sacred children are. Sacred. That word resonated with me. I know Alba is the most sacred thing in my entire world but in my effort to share and curate, I forgot to protect her sacredness. It’s difficult to not want to share her, as she is so beautiful, witty, and only good things for me but she is her own little person. I love photographing her as well but I was taught to keep Ceremony private. Because of my daughter’s sacredness, in a lot of ways she reminds me of Ceremony. All this realization and internal dialogue has made me question a lot of things in terms of Social Media:

  1. Why do I post? What is the purpose? Who do I post for? Myself? Does posting help me or my loved ones?
  2. Who is my audience? What is their intentions? Why do they need to see images of my baby? Who sees her images with harmful/negative intentions.
  3. What can someone do with the information I’ve put online? Birthdays, full names, etc.
  4. Do I value my daughter’s privacy? She is not a prop. She hasn’t given consent. Will it bother her in the future. Will it impact our future relationship. Will it affect her own relationships with others?
  5. How much time am I spending on Social Media? Too much. Can that time be better spent? Should I spend my time fostering relationships with the people I see day to day?

I ask you to ask yourself these questions. Think long and hard. Pop the bubble of naivety and rose tinted glasses. It’s not fun, but protecting our children is not supposed to be. I have begun to cut back on what I share. I’ve made my pages private, and am going through my followers list and friends list to make sure I recognize and know who I am sharing with. Originally, on Facebook and Instagram, I’ve accepted nearly every request in an effort to get exposure and meet potential photography clients, so my numbers aren’t small and there’s a lot to go through. Separating private/personal from public is necessary. I’ve very recently deleted my Snapchat in an effort to put the phone down a bit more. I’ve started reading a few more books and journaling. I am reevaluating my use(s) of social media and really trying to pinpoint my why. There is a very real addiction that exists and acknowledging it, knowing that I don’t want it for my daughter means I must break that addiction for myself.

 – claudine bull

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on poetry and photography – Kelsie Marchand, Guest Blogger

Lately I’ve been focusing on doing some shape-shifting. I’ve been an official photography business since October 2017, but my passion for photography and visual arts extends far beyond my English language. The best way I know how to express myself, before I knew any of my Nsyilxcən words, is through the expressions of my work. I envision things all the time. I’ll be driving and see something and it literally just shapes itself as I drive by.

I absolutely love and have the deepest respect for all my fellow Indigenous artists out there but poetry always speaks directly to my spirit, deep down to the roots of my being. My favorite Indigenous poet is Helen Knott of the Dane Zaa, Nehiyaw, and Euro descent from Prophet River First Nations in Northwestern BC. She is so talented and has been inspiring me for the past few years. I use her poetry along with most of my photos because she has the gift to put life and words to what my photos need to say.

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“Too Many Memories” – Kelsie Marchand, Syilx Images

I have too many memories that tell me of your lack of integrity.

Too many stories told to this young body.

It has aged me so.

I hold ancient songs in my bones.

I have absorbed the tears of elders, of young ones, from far off territories.

Our lands split up by mountains and rivers and your invisible borders.

I have seen you offer up apologies and promises.

While simultaneously taking actions that demand that we forget.

Demand that we bow to colonial rule

Over and over

and over

and over

Until we sit like a young spruce sapling under the winters weight of snow.

Helen Knott; “Canada 150. We are still Here or Have you Forgotten?”
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“Below the Cement” – Kelsie Marchand, Syilx Images

You see,

there are stories just beneath the city streets

that your bones are trying to remember

there are trail ways laying just behind those barbed wire fences

that you just can’t reach

there are ancestors bodies in these manicured landscapes

that have mixed and mingled with the earth

knowing this, you try to listen closely in these trafficked spaces

holding breath, keeping silent

knowing that a blood memory might be trying to speak

Helen Knott; “Indigenous Diaspora: Out of Place in Place”
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“Below the Cement” – Kelsie Marchand, Syilx Images

In the deepest parts of myself, and I’m sure many Indigenous people can relate, I have a yearning to connect with my decolonized self. This is what I hope is my boldest point when I write an “Artist Statement”. I used to be a lost soul and when I found that photography can be an expression of unspeakable words, then I felt as though I found my true self.

During our Syilx Salmon Feast & Ceremony* in Okanagan Falls, BC, I had the honour of being invited to shoot the events. It’s always in my heart to document as much of the Syilx ways as possible so I absolutely jumped at the opportunity not knowing how much it would change me. This was my first Salmon Feast & Ceremony. My kids always went to the ceremonies with their Aunt, Uncle and cousins many times before. My kids knew all of the songs, protocols, and spent the entire time supporting the ceremony leaders and Elders. I was so proud of them. 

Without speaking about the actual ceremony too much, I think I can express the meaning of it for me. One Elder spoke over us, “When the Salmon come through here they never come back the same as they were the year before, that is the same for us, what will you leave here today?”

I prayed on that, and I left anything that didn’t serve my life in walking a good path. From that day forward, I have been inspired to only work towards decolonization of my spirit and making sure that my children grow up in the same spirit and teachings of our Grandmothers. My work has become profoundly influenced by this ceremony. When times get tough, all I do is slip back into the memories of hearing my songs on that warm September afternoon where the breeze blew so perfectly carrying the words down the river. That was one of the most peaceful moments in my life and all I want is for our upcoming generations to have moments peace just like that with their own songs, prayers, and ceremonies.

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I will be continuing to document what in the past has been so poorly documented, and that is the images of our families sharing love, traditions, ceremonies, and artistic pieces that speak to the memories of our before.

I’ll leave you with a photo I call “Never Forgotten,” in memory of my daughter Kolet (pictured below) and my grandparents and family members that attended residential school.

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“Never Forgotten” – Kelsie Marchand, Syilx Images

I cannot be undone

My prayer songs will forever be sung

And out of this land I have come

Into the Earth I shall return

My stories and knowledge

Will not be unlearned

I come from strength, pride, and resiliency.

I will not be forgotten willingly.

Hakatah Wuujo Asonalah.

Helen Knott; “Fractured Identity; I Come from Something”

 – kelsie marchand 


* The Salmon Feast honours the sacredness of the river at sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ (Okanagan Falls), which is a culturally significant site for the Syilx (Okanagan) People, and an important traditional fishing camp, gathering place and trading site. (www.syilx.org)
** All poetry by Helen Knott shared with permission by author

Kelsie is a Syilx woman from the Okanagan Territory in BC, where she was raised. She and her husband, Mario, share 5 children together and are raising their family on the on the Unceded territory of the Kwantlen people. The work Kelsie does is deep rooted in the responsibility to reclaim the culture that was so carefully preserved by her Ancestors. Like so many other Indigenous people her ability to express that responsibility is best said through art, it is a way that her true self recognizes. Find her at FB, on her insta: @SyilxImages or her website. 

Sisters

My two little sisters are a blessing and a curse. I have memories of their births, though some of the details get a little confused. I remember being woken up in the middle of the night and getting carried out to our old chevy pick up truck but I don’t know if my other sister was there. We never went for rides in the middle of the night, only for Christmas Eve Mass, so an outing such as this was not forgotten. The other memory I have is driving to the hospital with my dad and our cat Dax, again I don’t know if my other sister was there. This memory I think is the most important because it shows how unimportant the birth of a sister was to my child mind. We had arrived at the hospital and my mom was lying in bed. She might have been holding my new-born baby sister, or perhaps it was my dad. Then my mom had opened up a drawer, took out a box of smarties and gave me the box of treats. I was so happy about those smarties, nothing else mattered, and that is all I can remember. As a mother I can reflect on my mom’s choices during that night in the hospital so long ago, and I now understand  that I was most certainly being bribed.

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They were so cute back in the ’80s.

Our birth order certainly shaped our personalities; we were your typical trio. As the first born I always had to set an example for my little sisters, and consequently am a little tightly wound up. The middle child, Lynette, had to negotiate within the complicated power relations of our family, and is always wheeling and dealing. The youngest, Bernette, watched her older sisters make mistakes, and now has the “I’ll show them all” attitude. (I still don’t know why my parents went with the “ette”s. I could have been a really good Annette)

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Lynette preparing for our youngest sister’s wedding.

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Bernette giving me the “WTF Amanda?” look.

My sons love hearing me tell stories about my sisters and I growing up, especially the ones where there is fighting involved. I try telling them about how we played with my-little-ponies or pretended to be mermaids in the ditches near the railway tracks, but they prefer to hear about the sister fights. They like to know that we were bad kids too. Like, what kind of young girl in a fit of anger would decide to throw an empty porcelain sheep-shaped Avon perfume bottle at her sister’s head? And what kind of girls would tie up their youngest sister to a chair and then shut off the lights and leave her in the basement? Yeah, my sons love hearing about that one.

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Me and my sisters.

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I see a resemblance between my boys and my sisters when they were kids.

Being the eldest I still feel responsible for my sisters. Sometimes I wonder if my eldest son feels this for his younger brother or not? He is growing up in a very different kind of family than the one that my sisters and I had to deal with. I am providing my boys with a safe and loving environment where they don’t need to protect each other in the home. Growing up I had to watch out for my sisters all the time – the drinking brought out the worst in the adults. My mom did her best to protect us but she wasn’t always there.

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Thanksgive’r tableau.

As adults, we still act like those little girls when we get together. We love to laugh at each other. We break off into pairs, and whisper about the other sister behind her back. We talk about ex boyfriends and poke at old wounds that only we know are there. No one can hurt us like we can. My middle sister recently found out that her partner of 10 years was cheating on her. Her grief is heartbreaking but soon enough she will be back out there wheeling and dealing. Her pain is short term and nothing like the scars that us sisters have inflicted on each other. Those scars are there for us to pick at and to remind us that we are always sisters. This year my youngest sister married her partner with whom she’s been with forever, and now they are finally talking about starting a family, just for me, so I can be an aunty. Hahaha. Perhaps they will start another generation of sisters.

 

Over these years we’ve pushed and pulled each other but we know that we are sisters. We are family and we will always stand by each others sides, no matter what.

-xox your big sis, Amanda Laliberte

 

Stickgames and Stories – Starleigh Grass, Guest Blogger

My people, the Tsilhqot’in, were traditionally nomadic people. Because we were nomads most of the things that we owned had practical value. Our art was used to adorn clothing, basketry, and practical items. Prior to contact, art was not something behind a glass case or hanging on the wall. It was something we interacted with on a daily basis. Everyone had the capacity to create art and most people did in some form or another.

During the period of time that our material culture became commodified and our subsistence culture became criminalized, people made items to sell to non-Tsilhqot’ins. I’ve seen some of these items in the Museum of Anthropology, including items made by one of my great grandmothers. I’ve held some of her items.

I know on an intellectual level that if it weren’t for colonialism, I would have learned the art of basketmaking, and to hold a Tsilhqot’in basket wouldn’t be such a rare event. I carry some resentment because I know that if it weren’t for the hardships caused by the criminalization of our way of life combined with the gathering of our material goods on the assumption that we would soon vanish, then these baskets would not have been acquired through colonial capitalism and be housed far from where they came from.

On a soul level, though, when I hold these items I am filled with gratitude for the woman who made them, because to some degree I owe my existence to her basketry expertise and her ability to sell the baskets in this newly imposed system of capitalism.

My grandmother beaded medallions and did applique on handmade purses and other items. Many of my family members had medallions on their rearview mirrors. They were treasured because they were a symbol of her affection. I remember her fondly sitting and beading and talking in Tsilhqot’in for hours at a time and she was very happy while she was making things and visiting.

My mother taught me how to bead on a loom when I was a teenager. I spent many hours with my mother and my sister beading. We beaded delicate chokers and experimented with fringes coming off of the chokers. My aunt showed me how to do applique and she made my son a beautiful medallion.

I stopped beading for several years. When my son was in primary school he attended a public school that required blue, yellow, and white uniforms. I embellished his pockets with yellow and blue beaded trim. Beyond that, I didn’t bead much for over ten years. I had beads, and once and awhile I would gather the beads and then look for a needle or thread or scissors, and abandon projects before they were even started because I just couldn’t focus long enough to get my materials together. Someday, I thought, I should start beading again.

I chose sobriety and started playing stickgames in 2011. I started making beaded stickgame sets less than a year later. Stickgames (known by a variety of names including handgames, bonegames, slahal, lehal, lahal) are a traditional game of chance. The oldest stickgame set in existence are about 12,000 years old, and the set is made out of mastodon bones. There are a number of variations of stickgames. The version of stickgames that I play is played by Indigenous people up and down the west coast, and into the prairies. Stickgames and beading have both played an integral role in maintaining my sobriety.

During the potlatch ban (1885-1951), the singing that accompanies stickgames would have been illegal. Many cultural practices were driven underground, and the suppression led to less participation in cultural practices. Now we are in the process of bringing them back. When I bead sets that people are proud to own and use, I feel like I am contributing to the revitalization of culture in a material way.

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The first few beaded sets that I made were gifted to friends and family. I also used some of my early beaded sets as prizes for our family stickgames at our traditional fishing camp. I’m an teacher, and I donated a set to a fundraising event for an Aboriginal education organization. I travel extensively for stickgames. If a community near me has never had a tournament or is bringing back a tournament that has not happened for awhile then I make it a priority to go there. I also try to go to places that are new to me or places where I know someone who is from there. Sometimes I raffle off a set to help offset my stickgame travel costs.

My preference is to trade. When people ask “what do you want?” I ask “what are you good at?” I have traded for a traditional Coast Salish weaving, a custom carved staff, a set made out of elk antler, and more. I treasure these items because they remind me that I am part of a community of creative and talented people. Even when people don’t make a trade, the conversations about what could be potential trades are treasured too, because through them I get to know about all of the talents people around me have. One time someone said that they were not good at anything. I told them “I don’t believe you. Everyone is good at something.” I look forward to the day they get back to me with their offer for trade.

My most memorable trade was to an educator from Port Hardy. I met him when I worked for a provincial education organization. In his community traditionally games involved 21 sticks, as opposed to the more common 11 sticks we use today. He requested a set of 21 sticks. He brought his dance group to a conference in Vancouver, and he spoke and led a gifting ceremony. The dance group helped hand out oolichan grease, seaweed, and salmon to myself and my co-workers and I handed the the sticks to the dance group. Then they sang and we went around the room and showed everyone our gifts.

Because I raffle sets, people often recognize me now when I go places and ask whether I have any sets. Sometimes when I am doing a raffle, people tell me how they would do the set differently and sometimes I learn from them. When people say “I could make that,” I respond “yes, you could,” and if they have questions about how to make them, I share what I know.

I draw inspiration for sets from popular colour schemes on the pow wow trail and from colour schemes that appeal to me. I read articles online about analogous, complementary, and neutral colour schemes and this knowledge has enhanced my designs. Sometimes people ask for custom colours and when those are not colours I would normally use, then I grow from the experience of working with their colours.

I do have my own style that has evolved over time. When I am really happy with a set, it usually includes these elements:

  • Solid bands at the top and bottom
  • Continuity between the two sides and the kick
  • The two sides to have an identical pattern, but with the colours switched around
  • The design wraps all the way around the stick
  • The kick is the most complex
  • Bright colours
  • Contrast between the colours used for the two sides

Sometimes I make sets where I try to create an image, such as chipmunks or coastal canoes with canoe pullers. I love seeing people’s faces when they see those designs because I’m 100% certain that the designs are one of a kind. I made a set out of one of my great-grandmother’s basketry patterns and that was a gratifying project. I try to work the designs out in my head as much as possible instead of using a pen and paper. My mind is always going, and when it’s working out the puzzle of a design it doesn’t have time to needlessly worry about the daily stresses of life.

I bead for a lot of reasons. I bead because it puts me in a peaceful state. I bead because I get an inherent joy from creating art. I bead because it connects me to the stickgame community and other artists in a meaningful way. I bead because making useful and aesthetically pleasing items connects me with my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and all of my beautiful ancestors that came before them.

A lot of people I have met want to learn how to bead. My advice is to just start. You can learn from trial and error, from studying others’ work, and from talking with other beaders. You have art and beauty inside of you, and if you feel an urge to share it with the world then just do it!

 – Starleigh Grass


Starleigh Grass is Tsilhqo’tin. She’s a mother, teacher, stickgame player, and beader. Her professional interests include teaching about residential schools in public schools, Indian Control of Indian Education, and the integration of Aboriginal literature in grades K-12. Her personal interests include culture, community, road trips, family, nature, and fitness. Her ideal tea is orange pekoe brewed in a large kettle and prepared with sweetened condensed milk in an enamel cup. She’s trying to be less brand conscious so Tetley, Red Rose, No Name…. anything goes these days. Her ideal bannock is thick, heavy, more salty than sweet, leavened with baking soda, and prepared in a cast iron pan. >> Find her on Instagram, Twitter and on her blog, Twinkle’s Happy Place

t&b collective: a quick look back

In honour of moving forward in the New Year, I’ve asked our collective to share a few words about their favourite images looking back over our past year, and if they were willing to share, what their creative goals are moving forward. 

Come February, tea&bannock will be celebrating two full years as a collective. As our lives are busy with post secondary schooling, old and new business ventures, love, friendship and family, we’ve definitely slowed down and learned to pace ourselves in this digital storytelling platform. Finding the right words and editing the images we want to share takes special space in our hearts. Breathing deep and laying our successes and stumbling blocks out into the wide open space, and trusting that our community will connect with the ideas we’re sharing – it’s powerful and humbling, and we thank you so much for being part of our lives. It’s a constant learning experience. 

Happy New Year.

I’m looking forward to what tea&bannock will be bringing to the table in 2018. 

 – tenille k campbell 


 

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“It was hard selecting my favorite photograph from 2017. It was either a picture of one of my rez dogs as a puppy, or a soon to be first time mother in regalia on a beach in Alert Bay, or my youngest son dressed as wolverine sitting next to his princess Eva (he has told me he will marry her and have five kids), or this unsettling photograph of my dad. He was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer a couple of years ago which has left him with no voice box. Last fall, I made an impromptu trip to Saskatoon to pick my dad up after being discharged from St Paul’s Hospital. He had been hospitalized for two weeks with pneumonia. My father was very ill and had this horrible smell. I’d never smelled anything quite like it and I knew it was the smell of something dying. When we said good bye, I was sure that was going to be our last hug but months later this stubborn, grumpy, mean, old man is still alive.

This summer my family and I moved back to Victoria so I could go back to school. I’ve been taking perquisite courses, such as chemistry, biology and Statistics, for the RN (Nursing) program. The pace of our life has changed drastically. Student life hasn’t left me much time to work professionally on photography. I’ve taken to shooting more of my day to day life with my iPhone and occasional grabbing the Canon 5D iii + 35L to take photos of whatever inspires me in that moment.

My art goal for 2018 is to find inspiration in this urban landscape and to continue taking photos amidst the chaos.”

Amanda Laliberte, British Columbia

 

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“The photo of my Jijuu in her fish house is by far my favorite image because the photograph is a true reflection of who she is. My Jijuu is hard working, she is a provider and she is so knowledgeable about our Gwich’in culture and land.

My art goal for 2018 is to create meaningful images. I want to be aware and present. I want to go to my fish net, hunting out in the mountains, and chasing the northern lights to capture all of those traditions and precious memories. I want to capture my family, especially my grandparents. I just really want to make art that matters.”

– Shayla Snowshoe, Alberta

 

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“The photo with Alba in the bonnet is my favorite of the year. I embarked on a weekly photo project where I took portraits of myself and my daughter together. This project was so important to me because I have no photos of myself and my mom from my infancy or childhood.”

– Claudine Bull, Alberta

 

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“I was at The World’s Smallest Dessert in Carcross, YK. This is one of my recent favourites  because it represents a place I never thought I would get to go to, as well as the traditional territory of one of my newest friends, Heather Dickson. It’s a reminder that I should be more open to new people who come into my life, as you never know how they are going to change and challenge you. For me, this picture is about kinship and story.

2017 was all about new adventures and new friendships. But for 2018, my art goals consist of learning some more about Photoshop and Video Editing. I want to brush up my skills, try new things, and create more community.”

– Tenille Campbell, Saskatchewan

 

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“A moment to myself in a whirlwind year of travel. Taken on July 7, 2017 – Treaty 7 and traditional Blackfoot territory. My goals for my art practice this year are to take more moments for myself.”

– Joi T Arcand, Ontario

 

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“My fav image is of my friends baby in a bunting bag. My goal for 2018 is to make more of an effort of reaching out to other artists in the NWT to begin collaborating and creating amazing images, and hopefully gain some kick ass friendships along the way…. and to learn how to post my blogs up on the tea & bannock website by myself!”

– Shawna McLeod, Northwest Territory

 

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“Art Goal of 2018 – Build a stronger art community/Collective”

– Caroline Blechert, Oregon via Northwest Territory