Native Sistah’s Unite

Since moving to the big city, much like Amanda in her last post, I’ve been experiencing some challenging transitions. Having this be my 4th move in one year and as a newcomer to the city, I definitely have my moments of longing to be back in a small community with all its laughter. Luckily, I have my amazing partner who continues to remind me that those things take time to build. One warming sense of community I feel like I always have, however, is our blog. ❤

When one of the Tea&Bannock members first posted that they were coming to Portland to be extras on Portlandia, I became super thrilled. I thought, not only was I going to meet another Tea&Bannock artist, but I was going to have some super rad Indigenous woman to roam the city with!

Already knowing that Joi was part of our blog made it super easy to reach out and offer a place for her and Leah to stay. This was always how my Nanuk treated her friends and friends of friends, even. In her case, it was always more the merrier. Her house was never empty growing up.

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Having Leah and Joi’s company reminded me of why our blog is so comforting. When our ancestors were living off the land, one of the strategies of weakening our cultures were to divide and conquer. When my Nanuk was displaced from her hometown tent life in Aklavik, she mentioned moving into “box houses” and hating the sense of division it created.

As a member of Tea&Bannock, this space has always felt incredibly genuine and supportive. For me, It’s been a major platform to reconnect with my native sisters – and whether we’re Inuit, Navajo, Inuvialuit, Lakota, Dene, etc.., we’re all Indigenous sisters connected through survival of great resistance.

Moments where we can comfortably sit with our tea and bannock (in our case. it was sangria and Mexican food) and chat about being an Indigenous woman in an urban society while giggling at all the follies we’ve experienced and sharing how to deal are incredibly wonderful and healing.

 

 – Caroline Blechert

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Standing with Standing Rock

The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, upstream from the Missouri River in North Dakota has the people of Standing Rock and many others setting up camp and uniting in protection against the Dakota access pipeline oil interests- making it the largest gathering of nations in over a century. This is an important issue to acknowledge and address, as not only has it disrupted sacred burial sites, but is also putting the drinking water for the surrounding communities of people at greater risk.

Last week, violent acts were pushed upon the opposition en masse along both sides of the the demonstration. Tribal supporters of sovereign rights were attacked through mase and attack dogs by the corporation’s hired private security guards. In an attempt to incite more Violence toward our community, the protectors remained strongly opposed to the strategy devised by the DAPL, which I believe comes from a source of weakness. Instead of drawing back from it, we are pushing forward with our voices and our protective stance in what some Americans may refer to as protest. We are proctectos with The Right to consider our freedoms from injustice, the American views are skewed because of the private intersects- a dialect promoting fear and anger in order to propel action and results

As Indigenous people, we are all decedents of extreme resistance, and shouldn’t have to keep fighting for our rights and for our lands. But here we are, again, standing up to our oppressors (that continue to blindly destroy everything and anything in opposition to its path).

And so we must stand together – nation to nation – in opposition to these corporations to protect our waters, our lands, and our rights not only for the Sioux people but for our future protectors to follow in these footsteps.

This Friday afternoon, “shortly after federal Judge James Boasberg denied the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an injunction against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Department of Justice and Army Corps of Engineers issued a joint statement that, in effect, temporarily halts all construction bordering Lake Oahe on the Missouri” (Indian Country Today).

Let’s remain in support.

The Water Protectors are not leaving.

For those who wish to stay informed and see how you can get involved, I strongly encourage you to visit the link below and spread the awareness – http://standingrock.org

 – caroline blechert

 

 

 

 

Continuing Traditions in the Delta

When I think of my culture, I think of the beauty and absolute richness of it. Between the barren lands and boreal forest lies my mothers hometown – Inuvik. Located on the mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories, Inuvik is the ancestral home to both the Inuvialuit and Gwich’in people.

I was 17 when I first travelled to Inuvik as a participant in the Great Northern Arts Festival. I was the youngest to ever attend, and have been coming to the festival just about every year since. For me, it’s how I discover and learn about my inuvialuit culture. Each year is filled with spectacular new experiences, from aukpik (cloudberry) picking to meeting indigenous artists from all over sharing their culture and stories with the community.

When listening to elders and the locals speak, It’s touching to hear how much care and thought they invest into the land and the animals. Despite the cold, harsh weather and the barren wilderness, especially during the long winters, the Inuvialuit were able to survive for many many decades. The reason for their cultural continuation is because of their respectful lifestyle and great knowledge of the land they inhabit; hunting animals only when they needed food, and paying close attention to the way that these animals and their environment operate.

While soaking in all of the beauty of the North, I think it’s also important to acknowledge some of the major issues in a lot of the small communities like Inuvik. Hearing about most of the issues is so much different then being surrounded and in plain sight of them. For those that aren’t aware, Inuvik was and still is home to many survivors, greatly affected by residential schools – which was to remove and disconnect indigenous children from their families, identities and traditions. And so to have art and an event such as the Great Northern Arts Festival to bring forth its beauty brings me great comfort.

And so as an artist, one of the ways of giving back to community is through teaching. This year, at the festival, I made sure to set up workshops in order to teach and hopefully inspire some of the local youth. It was incredible to watch these talented young people extremely focused and passionate about learning. The highlight of the whole festival was being able to provide resources for them to stay positive and to infuse confidence in themselves through art. My future goals are to one day provide more nurturing for these beautiful northerns, and hopefully inspire others to heal from the affects of Indigenous assimilation and colonization in more positive ways.

 – caroline blechert

Maltby Lake

Every so often, I pull a bit of a disappearing act and venture far away from the city to connect with nature as a source of inspiration and healing. As I leave the confines of the city and enter the peaceful, calmness of nature, It’s amazing how quickly I begin to transform my thoughts and perceptions._DSC0142 (1)

For awhile, Matlby Lake was my little hideout where I’d strand myself for days – sitting on the dock, observing the beautiful sate of balance and harmony around me. Inspired by my surroundings, I started to contemplate the ways in which I could create a sense of balance and harmony in my own life.

Like nature, I wanted to learn how to camly flow with the overpowering gusts of wind, rather than letting it completely sweep me away. And so, learning how to calm my mind was the first step – which is DEFINETELY not as easy as it sounds. Like many urban city slickers, the distraction of my electronic divices and pull of wanting to be constantly productive gets the most of my attention these days._DSC0022After a few weeks of practice, I finally started to feel a sense of strength in my connection with self and nature. Now, as I breath in deeply, I imagine soaking in the goodness that surrounds me while breathing out and letting go of the negative within. When I study the balance and harmony of nature, It’s as if I’m uncovering a deeper understanding of myself and the traditional ways and practices of my ancestors.

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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.

_DSC0549 (1)(Left: Jewellery Designer Kristen Dorsey, Middle: Me, Right: Jewellery designer Maria Samora)

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.

 

 

Living out of coffee shops

Victoria, with its overabundance of local coffee shops – most of which roast their own beans – has me living a routinely lavish lifestyle these past few months. My daily food and drink intake has since consisted of 50% caffeine and %30 pastries (mostly donuts – the cream filled ones.) Donuts so good, that often customers call ahead to put them aside.

My stubbornness to pay for home internet has also pushed me to live out of coffee shops – which isn’t all that bad considering otherwise, I’d probably never leave the comfort of home. If I’m really desperate for internet, I’ll walk a few blocks and sort of stand to the sidelines where ShawOpen is readily available. Thank god I at least have that going for me.

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What’s interesting about coffee shop culture here in Victoria, is that each has its own particular vibe/scene. Combined among the occasionally hair bun, tiny yamaka-esque toque hipsters, you’ll see me hidden away in the comfiest corner with my make-shift studio all set up, occasionally glancing up at the comings and goings of others. Luckily, I don’t have to travel far in order to turn my favourite cafe/tea shop into my own personal studio space. After every hour I usually earn my ‘rental space’ in food and beverages; so as to not look like one of those awkward eye-contact avoiding freeloaders. Reading, Computer-ing, even drawing are all fairly common sights in the bean scene, but beading – that’s when third degree stare downs start to happen. Most days I end up chatting away to strangers, interested and curious as to what I’m doing – which I enjoy, but doesn’t always help when I have a large custom order to fill.

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Tucked away from the city, is my favourite cafe enchanted around a secret garden. Its become one of those places I go so often, I rarely share it with others. During my friend Winona’s visit, we spent the whole day exploring the city’s swanky cafes. Featured above is Winona and I in extreme raised spirits from all the caffeine at this point, enjoying some quality food we can’t afford.

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One thing for sure: in this beautiful city, coffee culture certainly commands the highest attention than any other food or beverage industry around. Within each cafe there is no shortage of percolated chit chatters and deliciously roasted coffee complimented with pastries that could delight even the savviest Parisian.

 

Animals Traits and Inspiration

Recently my kind friends Erynne, her sister Emilee, and Yamilla agreed to help me out with a photoshoot for my Creations for Continuity business. Erynne and Emilee became my beautiful models and Yamilla, in exchange for jewellery, became my photography mentor of the day.

Before Yamilla, I was basically just winging my photoshoots doing everything by trial and error with any given lighting. Hard to believe I’ve had this camera for years and not known what half of the buttons do. (I’m really hoping that doesn’t get me kicked off this blog for saying that!) In any case, I’m learning slowly, but surely. By the end of the day I discovered what is now my favourite camera mode – the multiple exposure setting. Like a kid with a $50 budget at the dollar store – I went totally nuts while excitedly taking about a gazillion photos. Once we were done, there was pretty much a play by play of the whole photoshoot. Emilee, Erynne and I being our crazy weird selves, went through all the images, adding a story with silly character voices onto each others awkward in-between poses. My sister knows what i’m talking about – something unseemly only I and maybe a few select others would do/know about.

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Its people and moments like this that become reminders of why I continue to do what I do. Being a full time jewellery artist for over two years has been beyond amazing, with it however, as many full-time artists come to realize, ensues sufferable challenges. And though I could list many, maintaining self motivation and the indispensable desire for connection with others after spending X amount of hours in frantic solitary work confinement are some of the greatest ones. Building strong connections and community through art has become a vital component for not only the growth of my business but for my own personal growth and well being. Ultimately, as products of our environment, if you want to have a certain type of greatness in your life, you have to surround yourself around the types of great people you’d like to see reflected in yourself. Who we choose to invest ourselves with become our role models – shaping our outlook on life, and moulding us in ways that we could have never imagined; Emilee and Erynne are certainly two of those people for me.

Over a cup of tea, soaking in the sounds and sights of nature surrounding us, we delved into the discussion of animal traits mirrored within ourselves. And It was at that moment, when the idea for this photoshoot and the creation of the hummingbird necklace emerged.

Below features an image of Emilee wearing a newly CforC neck piece titled “Ookpik” meaning Owl in Inuvialuktun. As rulers of the night, owls uphold deep meaning for they  are seen as a powerful majestic creatures linked with wisdom and foresight – needless to say, all qualities held deeply within Emilee.

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Featured below is Erynne wearing a piece inspired entirely by her nature and its title – the “hummingbird”necklace . The hummingbird symbolizes beauty, intelligence, and love. These tiny and quick creatures are viewed as messengers of joy – as most people would agree, this statement is very much Erynne. She is as energetic and radiant as a hummingbird, gracing all those around her with a bold, energizing, and luminous presence.

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Thank you Erynne, Emilee and Yamilla for your deep support, guidance, and participation in this photoshoot! Its truly an honour to have such memorable beauties representing my line; symbolizing and embodying our indigenous and cultural identities with tremendous strength and prestige.

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