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

 

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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

bead more. worry less.

Life is happening. It’s been crazy but so great. I’ve been shuffling around many hats and I’ve been trying to do it all.  I haven’t been up on the Tea and Bannock blog for weeks because I simply couldn’t keep up. I needed to take a break or learn to let go of some of my workload. Slowly I’ve learned to say no to a few things, loose control a little bit and to RELAX. Chill out. Just to be ok with doing nothing, sometimes.

I’m a photographer, a girlfriend, a full time stepmother of three, a traditional games manager with ASCNWT, a blogger for Tea & Bannock and a Chef de Mission for Team NWT at 2017 North American Indigenous Games. My life has been moving so quickly that I often forget to stop and smell the flowers. 

While trying to do it all and run a photography business on top of it, my computer happened to crash back in January 2017. Boom! Done-zo! This has caused a lot of frustration in my world as a blogger and photographer. However I took it for what it is and decided it wasn’t all chaos.  It was a good excuse to kickback and take a step away from my own art. Give it time and just let it breathe.

Taking a step back has lead to other creative outlets and fresh ideas. I’ve always been a creative person and I have my mom to thank for that. My mind is busy coming up with new projects to execute. Any other artist would know exactly what I mean. It’s a constant process. My hands always have to be busy creating.  So instead of putting all my energy into a computer that crashed (which I tend to do), I decided to shift my focus on to another art of mine – beading and sewing. 

I never really was exposed to beading while I was growing up. I would find my mom on her sewing machine altering clothes and creating costumes. My slavey class with Maragret Vandell and Angie Matto often consists of working on mini culturally focused projects to take home but that was the extent of it.

One day in my teenage years, I decided I needed to learn. I wanted to learn. And I want to be a really good beader. (Dene Goals!)

So I dug out all of my mother’s beads that have been stashed away for some time. I claimed them for myself and she was happy to share any knowledge and tricks she had.

My mother is also a very creative person; she could take anything and make it into something bigger and better. Anyone that has been close to our family over the years knows that Joyce can take an idea and make it happen. From when I was a preteen she encouraged me to sew, bead, embroider, create, be good and do good.  But it wasn’t until this year that I really picked it up consistently.

In her teenage years, my mom would use a loom to bead and would create beaded belts, guitar straps, headbands, wallets, etc. If it wasn’t for her encouragement, I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at today (in all aspects of life). She would often travel to other communities and pick up patterns, material, beads, looms, fur, etc. for me to use to practice and keep me intrigued.

I figured if I wanted to pass that tradition down to my children and be good at it then it’s best that I start beading when I had the time. The beginning was a frustrating process, the lines weren’t completely straight and the control freak in me had a hard time accepting that I wasn’t good at it right away… but I persevered anyway.

I developed a huge bin of beading supplies and it quickly became the bin of unfinished projects. They just kept piling up. I had unfinished key chains, change purses, and many uppers. (Projects that didn’t make the cut.) I’m sure many of you would agree that it’s hard to work on a project you don’t completely love. 

 

So the moment that I decided I wanted to take on a large beaded project – dedicate time, put some effort into it and make sure that I finish it – was the moment my lifelong best friend told me she was pregnant. I knew I wanted to create something special for her and my soon to be niece. Right off the bat I knew what I was going to do. I was going to make her a baby belt. I didn’t tell her what I was doing, it was going to be a surprise. 

I got a friend to cut out and draw up a baby belt. (Thank you Tanya!) I started on this baby belt in December 2016 and gave it to my best friend soon after her sweet baby girl arrived in February 2017. I worked many late nights on it; lay the beads down, tac it down with two needles… and then take it all apart in frustration. The hardest thing about it was choosing the colour combinations… and having all the pink and purple bead colours rub off. I would often sigh out loud because I would become so mad. This went on for weeks but I absolutely loved that my mind and hands were kept busy during the very cold Yellowknife winter nights. As I progressed on this project, it all started to come to life. I couldn’t believe that I could bead a large project like a baby belt!

During this time I turned out to be that girl who would pick up everyone’s bead work and examine it. If you beadwork on your table, I would sit there and watch you sew or better yet, join you. If you were wearing moccasins, I would kneel down to look at your feet. I would look at the knots. I would touch the beads. I would even pick it up to smell it if it was sewn on moose hide. I was determined.

I finished the baby belt in record time and delivered it to my best friend. She was shocked. I was shocked that I actually finished it. There was no words just pure excitement between both of us. Then I was hooked! I couldn’t stop nor did I want to stop.

I knew if I wanted to be an amazing beader then I would have to practice, practice and practice some more. I convinced my sister (who has gone to school for fashion design) shortly after I was done the baby belt to figure out a way to make graduation stole for my mother. Like I’ve said, my mother is driven and can do anything she puts her mind to. Two years ago, she decided to take a Language Revitalization Diploma program to learn Dene Zhatie, to revive the dene language of the Deh Cho. We are all so proud of her for  sticking through the tough times and finishing this program. Next week she’ll be walking the stage in an honour ceremony in our hometown surrounded by people who love her. I knew she needed something special to wear to this ceremony, it was a no brainer – she needed a traditional garment sewn with love to proudly wear when she receives her diploma. 

It took me about 4 weeks to bead her graduation stole. Every bead tacked down with positive thoughts and well wishes. I took it everywhere I went in a small tupperware bin with many tubes of delica beads and bended beading needles. It came with me on work trips From Yellowknife to Toronto and everywhere in between; it has seen many airports, hotel rooms, ferry rides, road trips and campsites. I guess you can say I take after my mom – if I want to accomplish anything, you bet I’ll get it done.

Last week my sister and I surprised her with the graduation stole. It took my sister about 2 hours to sew it together; she whipped it up like nobodies business. My mom opened it up and gasped for air – again almost no words, just pure excitement. 

I will forever consider myself a beginner when it comes to beading, embroidery or any traditional art. There is still so much to learn! This art has taught me to be patient, especially when you’re blue in the face from frustration, and to be supportive, by teaching others what you know and to encourage them to pick up their unfinished projects or to begin new ones. These projects have given me so much pride, I feel connected to my ancestors and grounded as an indigenous person.

I’ve learned to see the good in my computer failing on me. I would have never picked up the needle and thread otherwise. I’m back to capturing moments with my family and shooting photography for myself. Always choose to see the good in every bad situation. Hopefully one day I’ll be back to creating scenes with models and capturing families but in the meantime, you can find me beading!

Shawna McLeod

the love of photography

There are several reasons as to why I love photography, the main ones are that my camera allows me to capture and showcase everything that is of value to me, as well as special moments for my clients and for the many amazing opportunities that it has brought into my life.

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The first and foremost reason that I love photography is because it is a creative outlet that allows me to capture my family and everything that I love, while preserving my culture and my memories with my Jijuu. It is so incredible to be able to preserve my Gwich’in culture through my photography. I have made it a personal goal of mine to always carry my camera with me when I spend time with my Jijuu, because she’s always teaching me something new – from tanning a moose hide to setting a net under the ice in -40.

The second reason that I love photography is because I have the honor of being able to capture special, once in a life time moments for my clients and their families. It is a really great feeling to see a bride relive her wedding day while sifting through photographs that I took, or to look back on photographs of elders who have passed away.

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Last but not least, I love photography for the many opportunities that it has brought into my life. I have travelled throughout Canada – photographing the people, the scenery and my experiences. I’ve photographed the Moosehide Gathering in the Yukon, been showcased at the Adaka Festival and the Arctic Image Festival, as well as photographed several weddings all over Canada. On each of my adventures, I have had the opportunity to meet so many talented, kind and respectful individuals while creating memories that I will hold in my heart forever.

Photography isn’t just a hobby for me… it’s my lifestyle.

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 – shayla snowshoe

Beginnings

I’ve always loved taking pictures for as long as I can remember. I remember being fairly young and getting my mom to buy me disposable film cameras. In high school I took tons of snapshots my myself and my friends, trying to document it all. While I was in my first year of University, I splurged on my first dslr. 2011 is the year I started taking more serious portraits of other people and putting myself out there more, by showing my work to online communities. Since then, I’ve been getting requests to be hired as a photographer. Despite that, I do limited work. I work hard to find the balance between my love for photography and it becoming a “chore,” or just a job. It’s been one of the hugest challenges of being a photographer for me.

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I think one of the reasons I’ve had a fascination with documenting with photographs is because I have no photographs from my childhood. I have seen less than a handful of baby pictures of myself. We moved a lot when I was young so I think that made it harder for my mom to get pictures of my siblings and me. I want people to have photos of and for themselves, of their families and loved ones. Time passes quickly and I find pictures help with remembering special moments.

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I believe another reason for my love of photography (especially photography of First Nations people in Canada) is the lack of representation of Aboriginal people in mainstream media. Growing up, I found it so bizarre and disheartening that we “didn’t exist” in movies, magazines, and even books. I could never find anyone who looked like me, that looked like a Cree woman on t.v. The only place I saw people like myself was on the news, and it was often negative. One of my goals is to get images of us (First Nations/Inuit/Metis peoples) “out there,” for people to see that yes we do exist, we are beautiful, we have stories, lives, aspirations, and accomplishments.

Photography and social media have provided the most beautiful gift, a platform for us to share stories, and to network with other like-minded individuals. The amount of talented Aboriginal people I have been exposed to thanks to social media has made me so grateful and proud of who I am. The world is changing, our presence is becoming louder, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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 – claudine bull

MY FAMILY CONNECTIONS ARE THERE

As I rummage through old boxes looking for negative and prints, I find myself asking the question: Who am I? How does my identity affect my work?

I find piles of forgotten negatives, polaroids, burnt CDs, prints; photos of friends that I haven’t heard from in years mixed up with snapshots of old boyfriends. What am I supposed to do with these? Boxes and boxes of these tangled objects that I can see and touch, forming a web of tangible memory. Now most of my work has become immaterial, saved on a hard-drive or floating around somewhere in a  shared cloud. 

I follow a trail of notes, scrawled in the margins of books and papers.

Kindergarten photo of me in my curls and frills.

Kindergarten photo of me in my curls and frills.

I open a dusty banker’s box and I find a photo of myself as a child. I remember having to put up with my mother putting those pink foam curlers in my hair the night before. But I sure loved that dress with the frills.

Another photo I look at is of my father.

After my mother left my father, she went through the family albums and removed all of the photos of him. I am grateful that she held onto those images and gave them to me as an adult. Something for me to hold onto, something to remember, something to make sense of who I am.

Photograph my mother took of Elenor, Norman Sylvester and my Dad at Turnor Lake in July, 1985.

Photograph my mother took of Elenor, Norman Sylvester and my Dad at Turnor Lake in July, 1985.

I continue to document my life with images. I was born and raised in Saskatchewan with an unconscious mixed sense of pride and shame. As an adolescent my mother and my sisters and I were uprooted and relocated to Vancouver Island. That story includes heartache, struggle, violence, disconnection, and redemption.

The move was so long ago but I still call Saskatchewan my home. My family connections are there: in the people, in the water, in the sky, and in that land. My mother’s family were early settlers; they homesteaded the territory, cleared the land, planted roots and stayed, raising generations of farmers and ranchers, some of whom still call those wide open spaces their home.

My father’s family were from further north, where the land was less arable. They came from places with names like Île-à-la-Crosse, Buffalo Narrows, Meadow Lake, Green Lake, Big River. Names that tell of the importance of water.

I look at photos of my great grandparents in front of their mud brick shack in Green Lake. More photos of them with other family members who I do not recognize, faces smiling at the camera. I find a photo of my kookum. I notice that her profile is similar to my youngest sister’s. And to mine.

I miss this place, Saskatchewan.

I miss this place, Saskatchewan.

Another question comes to mind.

What do photographs of Indigenous women, taken by Indigenous women, look like? 

We have all been colonized by the white man’s gaze. We need to  change the visual narrative and create an Indigenous woman’s gaze. We live in a time where we can represent ourselves with a variety of tools. Smart phones, point and shoot disposables, DSLRs, film cameras, anything that can record the light.

We need to see the world from as many perspectives as possible and share them with others because as @runawaygtrain shared on Instagram: Our ancestors would have wanted us to give a shit.

Outtake from recent photo session with Victoria Pruden.

Outtake from recent photo session with Victoria Pruden.

Having fun with Pewi Alfred.

Having fun with Pewi Alfred.

First paid photo session with Sarah Hunt.

First paid photo session with Sarah Hunt.

 – Amanda Laliberte

Wild Horse, Moberly, BC

Darkroom, bright light

I’ve always taken pictures.

My earliest memory holding a camera I was five. I remember the feel of the cold chrome and smooth black leather and the hefty weight of it in my hands. It felt like a fragile brick.

I remember my eye looking through the view finder and the satisfactory “click” I heard made when I pushed the trigger.

I remember how the viewfinder would go black for a quick moment when the shutter opened and closed. When I captured that first frame, something captured me.

By high school I knew my way around a roll of film pretty well – but entering the darkroom was a new freedom. I could spend hours dodging and burning. Hanging film. Finding the perfect contrast. Reprinting the same image until I had it just right.

My story at the time was of the only indigenous student in a predominantly white school. The darkroom was my refuge.

And even though I produced far more work than my classmates, it never once occurred to me to do the assignments. As a result I failed high school photography – consistently and somewhat deliberately for years.

Thankfully my photography teacher seamed silently proud of my rebellion. Regardless of my lack of interest in their class – they gave me keys to the darkroom and taught me to load and process my own film. They encouraged me to develop my skills. They asked me thoughtful questions and they were the first to really hear the stories I was telling with my images.

As a result, the work I produced at that time was, and remains, my clearest voice.

I believe I inherited both the instinct for storytelling and a camera for a reason.

Perhaps it’s to help shift the narrative told about indigenous people, from the third to the first person. Perhaps it’s to make sure the images of our elders have names. Perhaps it’s to capture the history of the February 14th Memorial March and tell that in a way that is centered on resilience, not violence.

I just know that it’s part of how I speak in the world, that it brings me joy and challenge, and that with a camera in my hand – I’m always home.

 – Jessica Wood