~ Aboriginal Storyteller, Traditional Crafts and Visual Artist ~
I was born French Canadian, Anishinabek- Algonquin Metis
In my teens I chose to investigate my Native heritage and I met Chief Red Cloud who was a great inspiration during my research for a high school independent study project when I chose to compare four primary Christian bible stories with their parallel Native Myths and Legends (Creation Story, the Flood, etc.)
It wasn’t until much later that I really embraced my Aboriginal traditions.
When I was 35 I actively began to experience inspirations and dreams that
compelled me to put on paper and to draw and create images of a Native
Woman giving thanks and images of wildlife and nature. I even began carving a log, resulting in an eight-foot-tall totem pole with an eagle, bear, shield with two spears crossing and the four colours of man and the elements. I had sketched with pencil and charcoal as a youngster and was always drawn to animals and nature but this was different. This was an urgent need within me.
I paid much closer attention to the teachings I was gifted with and found myself interpreting my Aboriginal culture through art, craft and retelling of stories. I began studies with Lee Henderson-Wind, attended circles and I became an active member of the Metis Women’s Circle. Many elders and peers encouraged me to develop and apply my skills as an artist.
Why do I like to make art?
Art satisfies a purpose and a knowing that someone else may appreciate the
creation of it. It provides a way to preserve my culture and with storytelling the
listener can see other perspectives without feeling threatened by the teachings.
Craft work is an inner drive for me and it’s a pleasure to express my own
creativity through traditional work.
Storytelling is really for others, to share teachings and fulfill needs of others. The more I can bring into a story with expression and facial reactions and feedback from audience then it gives the story more meaning and they become part of the storytelling as well.
Visual arts can be one plane or it can operate on different levels. Storytelling
works the same way as words get a story across but in the telling of it you bring it to life and make audience a part of the story and it operates on different levels of traditional teachings, adapted by the listener for what they need.
In crafts, I take materials and reuse them. I use natural materials and
recyclables, such as small water bottle caps for keychain hand drums, using
scraps of leather and sinew. I like the things I create to have a story behind
them as well. This way, when someone receives or purchases an item I’ve
created, I want them to know the story behind it.
Who and what inspires me?
Other storytellers inspire me, other elders such as Walter Cooke, Joseph
Paquette, Mamere Chenier, Elize Hartley, Lee Maracle, Basil Johnson and other non-famous grandmothers and elders within our Canadian aboriginal community.
People I cross paths with inspire me, as sometimes a mannerism will inspire a
story that is new or a story / teaching that I may have even forgotten that I knew.
My teacher Lee Henderson – Wind was a great inspiration to me. I learned how to interpret our cultural stories to understand the aboriginal teachings behind them and how they expand our understanding of ourselves. I learned how to apply the teachings that came from our stories in everyday life. She taught me how to speak from my heart and not from my head.
Everything from a spider to a tornado inspires me. Anything that sparks an
emotion will inspire a story. Sometimes inspiration comes from a place I don’t
know how to describe, with intuition and innate understanding.
My goal is to use the Circle of Life and Medicine Wheel to inspire “children”
(young and old), the youth and adults to embrace change, transition, acceptance, giving and believing. I wish to expand my presentation skills, using the story of Jumping Mouse to tell the story and to have students engage in the story with visual arts, print making and crafts.
Della Chenier, BlueMoon)reatives