The Culture of Relationship

Cultural Exchange Saskatchewan, Dakota Whitecap First Nation, Remai Modern, 2018

ABOVE: Indian Hill, Communal Made Needle Felted Wall Hanging, Dakota Whitecap First Nations Community, 2018

I was given an opportunity to participate as an Artist in Communities, and I was invited to the Dakota Whitecap First Nation to work on a project called “The Culture of Relationship”. At the time, there was a lot of discussion in the province regarding cultural appropriation and the tensions between Settler and Indigenous relationships. Two of my colleagues asked me, “Why you? What can you teach them? Haven’t we been sending white people into Indigenous communities to teach them for too long?” I agreed with them, but I also wanted to learn from the community. So, I went there with my paintbrushes, ready to learn. However, I soon realized that this tool wasn’t universal enough in its approach, and I had to learn a new skill. The needle became the unifying tool that led me deeper into this community.

To start the project, I participated in Walter and Maria Linklater’s 21st annual Cultural Camp, where they shared their teachings. Walter spoke about the importance of knowing who you are and understanding the paths your family took to get you where you are. Maria spoke about the importance of our hands and how they are here to do good things and make beautiful things. We ended the day with a traditional sweat ceremony on Indian Hill, located on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation Reservation. I attended my first traditional sweat ceremony in grade nine, and it was always welcomed as it usually provided deeper learning.

During the 2018 EMMA Collaborative, I noticed four birds flying in the sky, which turned out to be eagles. When I returned to the Whitecap community to complete the project, I was informed that Walter had passed away over the weekend, and the classroom space in which we were working became the space for his Wake.

Through Thomas Hirschhorn’s exhibition, I learned to create works of art that I’ve seen with my own eyes. So, the students and I created a wool-felted wall blanket that depicted four eagles flying through the sky at Indian Hill for the project “The Culture of Relationship”.