The exhibition Nigi Mikàn – I Found It: Indigenous Women’s Identity was the product of an open call to the artist community to submit images on the theme of Indigenous women’s identity. In all, 20 artists submitted images and 10 were selected for the exhibition.
More than 200 people attended the opening of the exhibition on 16 August and enjoyed the Junior Curators’ presentations on the artworks. DJ MadEskimo set the mood with a hip-hop vibe mixed with traditional Indigenous music; Wawatay Catering provided Algonquin-themed eats; Mi’kmaq designer Brandon Mitchell created the exhibition program, which was printed by Aboriginal owned company, Elm Printing. Anishinaabe artist Melody McIvor and her Ishkode crew filmed the event.
This photo was taken in my bathroom as I was reflecting on my hair, which I saw as a metaphor for where I was in my life. My gray hairs indicated the wisdom and experience that I have accumulated over the years. Its strength and length represents the empowerment I felt within myself as an Indigenous woman, while the braid represents the bonds I have with others as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and role model.
This is a self-portrait based on a portrait of artist and feminist Georgia O’Keeffe. It features tattoo designs inspired by traditional Inuit tattoos, combining Inuit and contemporary themes.
Photographs in popular culture and news media objectify and stereotype Indigenous women, detaching us from our lands, communities and families. I created this self-portrait in honour of all Indigenous women warriors who fight to remain connected to our Mother Earth and as a powerful reminder that the sacred relationship we have to our lands will never be severed.
I was given up for adoption the day after I was born and placed in a home with a non-Indigenous family. My adoptive parents fostered my identity as an Aboriginal person the best way they knew how: through gifts of Aboriginal crafts. Always presented as very special gifts, these became precious possessions and for the first 20 years of my life, were my only connection to my Indigenous identity. Although my exposure to my cultural background was limited to these pieces, their significance as “special gifts” has been a part of my evolving sense of pride and dignity in being Indigenous.
Inuit people have always been my heroes, especially our Elders. I took this image last year during Inuit Day in Ottawa. These two beautiful Inuit women (Elders Suzanne and Sarah) have shared their culture, history and humour with so many people, including me. I was so happy that they allowed me to take their picture. For me, Inuit women are the backbone of our society, for they unselfishly give so much of themselves for their community and their country and that makes me feel so proud to be an Inuk. We should honour and celebrate Inuit women all the time!
This is a photograph of my son. He is standing in front of an article I wrote about his first time going to a powwow. He is holding a photo of McIntosh Indian Residential School’s hockey team. His great-grandfather Cameron Rae is the goalie pictured in the middle. We are a part of a family suffering from intergenerational trauma caused by the Canadian residential school system. Both my son and I are on our way towards reclaiming a culture and an identity that was stolen from my grandparents. I will try my best to raise him to be a good Ojicree man.
This is a self-portrait that shows the links to each culture and the balance between the two. It also reflects the pull of the colonial world versus the spirit of the Indigenous soul.
This photo is of my mother Gertrude Frank. It represents a confident and strong Indigenous woman. For my whole life, I witnessed my mother raise a family of eight plus several foster children. She taught us all to be independent and to strive to do things for ourselves. At a young age, I watched my mother take a wringer washing machine apart and put it back together to get it working again. At a beautiful age of 82, my mother broke her hip and within a month, up and walking with the aid of a cane, she has once more shown her determination and independence. I am proud of my mother.
This is an image of a jingle dress dancer. She is the caretaker of tradition as well as the backbone of family and community. The dancer of the jingle dress helps heal our communities of the past, present and future. She is IDLE NO MORE.
I am filled with joy when my feet remind my soul of our history with the earth.