I don’t write very often about my family here on the blog, something I feel might be changing now that I have a daughter, but suffice it to say that I have an awesome family and I grew up in a household filled with art and creativity. My dad is a sculptor and though she’s never written a novel, my mom reads and tells stories with more flair than many of my favourite writers. I spent most of my childhood going to galleries and art openings, listening to my dad talk with friends, colleagues and patrons on the phone about new pieces he was working on, and learning how to create art of my own.
I know it’s difficult for artists to make a living in this day and age when people pay almost as much for a cup of coffee as they do for a book. I think that might be changing, at least, I hope it is. I see more and more artists finding their voices, making good art (as Neil Gaiman says) and finding ways to share it. And as much as I love good art, I particularly love the process that happens before the final product is unveiled for an audience to see, the process of feeding ideas, nurturing them and bringing them to life. But I digress.
Recently, we attended the opening of my dad’s piece ‘Eagles Among Us’, a monument that he designed to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Battle of Stoney Creek and in particular, the involvement of Indigenous Nations in this war.
Who are Indigenous People? And what is their relationship with settler colonial states? If you believe the media then at worst - Indigenous People are drunks and upstarts who aren’t satisfied with the handouts that they get from the government and Settlers are diligent taxpayers who are bearing the load for Indians everywhere. This narrative is a lie - and a dangerous one that wilfully neglects the beauty of my people and the relationships we have with others - as allies, as Treaty partners, as hosts to those who left their lands for a variety of reasons – overcrowding, exile, a search for freedom, adventure.
This week, I saw so many negative things on the Internet, from the media, on Twitter, on Facebook, in election platforms and I had to decide, very purposefully, to not feed the negativity by sharing it or liking it. Relationships are fraught with enough challenges as it is and if there’s anything I want to bring to my relationship with every spirit in this universe and especially those on Turtle Island, it’s the Treaty principles that are embedded in the Two Row – peace, friendship, and respect. How can I do that? How can any of us do that? Through education of course and telling the truth - at least that's always the answer I arrive at when I ask these kinds of searching questions. And art has the potential to do this, to tell the truth and to share that truth in a compelling and deeply personal way.
These are the kinds of thoughts that I had while my dad was working on this piece, while he diligently researched and unearthed the stories of those who came before us, those who navigated their relationships amidst a conflict that defined (though artificially) the boundaries of North America as we know it today. For two years he worked with tremendous energy, passion and empathy, engaging the help of my younger sister, a talented artist in her own right. The result of his work was this piece, this beautiful larger than life monument to friendship, to courage, to healing and to lasting peace. Our people, Ogwehoweh people, choose our parents before the Creator sends us here from the Spirit World. Perhaps this is true for your people as well. By sharing this monument, I hope that you can all see why I chose mine.
And finally, here is this video, that explains the piece far better than I possible could. Nya:weh!