Reflections From Creating Medicine Cloth on the Ancestral & Unceded Territories of the Syilx People of the Okanagan
The creative experience of being on the Okanagan, and the connections I’m making are changing the directions of both my life and my art. My intensive indigenous art residency at UBC ended much too quickly. But all good things come to an end. As I begin the process of unpacking and reflecting on the experience, I’m mentally reminded of the teachings and philosophy of bell hooks as presented in her book, Teaching to Transgress: Education as a Practice of Freedom. Most of my creative energy was spent transferring knowledge to two learners. However, I managed to complete two wool blankets for my art portfolio and upcoming art show. A traditional Eastern Woodlands Courting blanket that was birthed completely unexpectedly, and a blanket for the Eastern Woodlands Blanket Dance.
As I witnessed the effect of my teaching on both my learners, I realized indigenous ways of knowing, doing, and creating aren’t all about what I create with my own hands. The knowledge that I transfer is also part of my creative process. Before the IAI (Indigenous Art Intensive), I had big dreams of making lots of indigo-dyed fabric to make quilts. Instead, I spent 75% of my time teaching and feeling like a round peg trying to fit in a square hole. Everything was off from my fragile health, being able to work in the studio during my most creative time to my sleep pattern. To top it all off, I caught a cold, my first in almost five years. I feel like I’m getting knocked backward on my journey for health and restoration, but such is life.
But for all that I gave of myself, I was abundantly blessed by the connections I’m making with other indigenous artists. As native artists need each other to be our best creative selves. Together our energies create a strong circle that binds us to the land and to each other. We share strength, hope, and healing when we exchange ideas as part of indigenous nation-to-nation protocols. Participating in this Sacred Circle of Creative Knowledge is amazing, and changing the direction of my Earth Walk. It’s the unexpected manifestation of hope for the land and for all indigenous peoples that makes Living “Water Is Life” Indigo a medicine.