2018 was one of the best years of my life. I participated in art escapades that changed my life. I’ve been creative all my life, but didn’t know I was an artist until 1980. Someone, who saw one of my early paintings told me I was just wasting paint because a woman who looked like me from Wilson, NC could never be an artist, much less an Indian. Well, here I am today as an indigenous teaching artist, after facilitating natural dye workshops at Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto, Otahpiaaki Fashion Week in Calgary and at The Material Institute Fashion School in New Orleans. What wonderful experiences!
So, what life lessons have I learned from Toronto, Calgary and New Orleans?
- First, I have finally learned that haters and negative people are drawn to those of us who are actively making a positive difference. It’s like moths to a flame. Our light and our energy attract them because they are in desperate need of it to feed their despair. It’s not my place to judge them. But, neither can I afford to let someone steal my joy, my happiness, my time or my energy. My life has purpose, so I need to exercise wise discernment in what I choose to do, and whom I choose to interact with each day.
- Second and for me revolutionary to my art making, I’m learning that fashion can be a form resistance for indigenous people. What we choose to wear can empower us and help us heal from the trauma of being made unwanted strangers on our own land. I received my first Kokum scarf, discovered the sisterhood of the Kokum Scarf Campaign, and the creative beauty of contemporary indigenous fashion. I discovered missing parts of myself in the lives and my connectedness to other indigenous women. Other people have missing puzzle pieces to our lives and we have theirs. It’s so we know beyond a shadow of doubt that we are connected, we are all related, and we’re not alone.
- And third, I’m learning that you never know what’s around the next bend on the road of life. Just when you think you know where you going, life gives you unexpected surprises. It takes you to places and you have experiences that you didn’t know to dream about. If you share with the world, the world will share with you! I encounter many different people with different ways of knowing and doing. The circumstances of life leave all of us heart broken, disappointed, falsely accused, discouraged and confused. It’s part of being human. But, each of us has a choice every day as to what we want to make. Do we want to make chaos by lashing out in anger, frustration and resentment blaming others for our failures and shortcomings? Or, do we want to make peaceful calm by accepting responsibility for our actions, digging deep to change ourselves and discovering that the power to transform is inside of us?