It is with honor, humility and gratitude that I participate in Otahpiaaki 2018: Pride & Protest which was developed by a team of Blackfoot Elders, students from diverse Nations, and faculty from Mount Royal University. Twenty-eight fashion designers, artists and creatives from eighteen Nations on Turtle Island are participating. The purpose, which is inspired by Nitsi’powahsinni, which in Blackfoot is a celebration that carries the breath of the ancestors, is essential for the continued survival of indigenous people.
The purpose: “significant social, cultural, restorative and economic reconciliation across reserves, communities, regions and territories by promoting, protecting and providing resources and capacity building by using a ‘seed-to-runway’ social enterprise model that unfolds alongside a program of research in our workshops.”
I have been designated with the honor of being an Elder, which carries the responsibility of focusing all of my life experiences and creative energy into cultural traditions associated with dyeing cloth and stitching Poo’miikapi Textiles which translates into teaching, learning, sharing and healing. My design problem is how to construct a shared learning experience through a community quilt project that can become a cultural expression supporting “restorative and economic reconciliation” while contributing to indigenous fashion. My solution is what I call Poo’miikapi Quilting.
Poo’miikapi Quilting Definition: Poo’miikapi is a Blackfoot language concept that translates into teaching, learning, sharing and healing. In a nutshell it means, we teach, we learn, we share and we heal. Rooted in traditional indigenous Textiles history it gives voice to cultural, social, restorative and economic empowerment within the global modern quilting movement. Algonquin people have a long connection to cloth, color, pattern, rhythm, visual texture and stitching. Our three-layer quilt sandwich consisted of sustainable fibers from our land and was bound with sinew and spun twines. Finished products were blankets for the Eastern Woodlands Blanket Dance, shawl blankets as regalia to keep us warm, as well as bed quilts. The design choices of how to put the basic ingredients of making a quilt together are parallel to our experiences of putting the broken pieces of ourselves, families, communities and Nations back together. As indigenous survivors we push the boundaries; we harmonize using improvisational techniques; we break the rules; we make up our own patterns or deconstruct traditional ones into something new and unexpected. Poo’miikapi Quilting is a fluid and evolving means of improvisational indigenous expression. We are interpreting the cultural traditions of our ancestors using cloth made sacred by hand dyeing and quilting as a metaphor for Otahpiaaki’s “seed-to-runway” social enterprise model.