Kutenai Headwaters sweat lodge from woven willow and mountain alder

2021 November 10 sweat lodge on the Vermillion River, Kutenai Headwaters, unceded Secwépemc, Ktunaxa, and Nakoda territory (British Columbia) 1P3A0914

Kutenai Headwaters (unceded Secwépemc, Ktunaxa, and Nakoda territory) note 2
sweat lodge in overlapping territories

2021 December 1 * 6 1/2 minutes

 

sweat lodge in overlapping territories

I’m fascinated today in mid-November in 2021 in the headwaters of the Kutenai Watershed that flows south and west from the continental divide just over the ridge from the Bow river Valley. I’m fascinated with this sweatlodge frame on the east side of the Vermillion River.

This frame is mostly made of willow and mountain alder. I don’t know it’s age. There’s a tree close to it that at this elevation in the Rockies is probably more than ten years ago. It would have been difficult to protect this seedling while this sweatlodge was being constructed and used intensively. So perhaps this sweatlodge has been here for more than a decade or perhaps it is being maintained and rebuilt and is much older.

This is a beautiful set of forms that were carefully and lovingly put together — forms that co-exist so well in these mountains.

This is the shared territory of the Secwépemc, with the closest community further south near the Columbia River, the Ktunaxa, with communities further south mainly along the Columbia, and the Nakoda whose communities are to the north-west in the Bow River Valley in Alberta. These Rocky Mountain valleys with rivers flowing into the Columbia River are unceded and are not covered by any treaties. Today, this valley is claimed by both the Secwépemc and the Ktunaxa nations along with continued presence reasserted by the Nakoda. And this area is within Kutenai National Park with Parks Canada having a history, that it has only partially corrected, of displacing indigenous communities on their own lands.

These land contests are the source of tension, the kind of pressures that I grew up with on the West Coast. Sometimes they’re resolved in the courts or even through demographics. But this ambiguity is sometimes difficult especially for a Métis person in British Columbia as part of another community without a treaty and where a treaty is probably unlikely. So this ambiguity about the makers, users, and stewards of this frame is both mysterious and stressful.

I was here last week, in early November before the first big snow, and a recently used fire circle was evident. The fire circle was in the centre of the frame which suggests one or two of these three groups. And their three languages are quite different as well.

So coming here to study willow and then to stumble on this beautiful piece of weaving and from is not without its moral hazards. I think about the land and sea contests between some people who supposedly agreed to bad treaties and other communities, with different languages, who did not even have the option of agreeing to bad treaties, these differences still cause huge disparities and pain especially for elders with some communities excluded from stewardship and harvesting in some areas. So it’s hard and I recall that with this sweat lodge.

2021 November 10 sweat lodge on the Vermillion River, Kutenai Headwaters, unceded Secwépemc, Ktunaxa, and Nakoda territory (British Columbia) 1P3A0923

night garden: willow sculpture multimedia storytelling through site-based installations centred at Gibraltar Point, Toronto Islands

red-ossier dogwood, a beloved Canadian (mid-latitudes from the Pacific to the Atlantic) weaving material @ Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts, T’Karonto Islands, image recorded as part of a winter ecology, site analysis, and gathering reconnaissance 2024 February 2024

night garden: willow sculpture multimedia storytelling through site-based installations centred at Gibraltar Point, Toronto Islands for 2024

project work plan

Site of Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts adjacent to the 1812 Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

T’Karonto Islands indicating location of the Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts

February 16, 2024

current project outline & work plan approved by

Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts (Toronto Islands) &

STEPS Public Art

project work plan

night garden:

Métis willow sculpture multimedia video storytelling through

site-based installations, Gibraltar Point, Toronto Islands

project confirmations

Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts (formerly) Artscape Gibraltar Point (Jasmine Puak July 6, 2023 & Darren Reinhart July 27, 2023 & August 30, 2023 [verbal, email, and budget and fee approval]; Reconfirmation with Letter of Permission October 13, 2023); (Darren Reinhart, November and December, 2023, February 2024)

STEPS Public Art (Collin Zipp June 30, 2023 [via email] & Eli Hirtle (mentor on early phase of project) in-person meeting July 20, 2023)

STEPS funding received ($4,500)

curatorial guidance from Serena Steel, Polygon Gallery, North Vancouver (August 2023 and ongoing)

video production supervision from Zachery Longboy (September 2023 and ongoing)

2023-24 Canada Council Inter-Arts research and creation grant received for preparation in September 2023 – March 2024 ($24,500)

concept:

A ‘night garden’ is a metaphor for the half-sleep state experienced by children coping with anxiety combined with innocence and  hope – not quite veering into nightmares but close. This project entitled, “night garden” consists of eight willow and red-osier dogwood sculptures, innovating on Métis basket-weaving traditions, combined with multimedia (principally audio and video played in loops on used, reprogrammed iphones in zip-loc bags attached to sculptures). The sculptures will be installed as elements of a small garden on the Toronto Islands in the woodland near the campus of the recently renamed Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts (formerly ArtHubs Gibraltar Point and formerly Artscape Gibraltar Point) (due south of the historic lighthouse).  The sculptures may be moved through the course of the installation period. The sculptures will be well-lit for night viewing with solar powered lighting and projections from each sculpture presented through eight evenings of performances (May through November 2024) with all of the sculptures lit and some projections and audio with video screenings indoors combined with performances beginning June 21, 2024 through early November 2024.

content:

  • 8 willow and red-osier dogwood sculptures 5 to 7 feet wide and long and up to 8′ high
  • solar-powered lighting that projects shadows across the surround lawn and woodland for much of the first weeks of the installation with fade-outs and failures of the lighting in the weeks and months after installation
  • 8 initial evenings of 60 to 90 minute performances soon after sunset with each evening a focus on a different sculpture with a video screen
  • 15 subsequent performance evenings in June, July and September, 2024
  • a spoken performance with some image projection for the eight evenings
  • online documentation of the sculptures, site, performances, and the stories associated with the sculptures and performances (www.gordonbrentingram.ca/willowweaving)

themes:

  • storytelling in this project is part of a video series about growing up in the 1960s and 1970s as a Métis person in a supportive Salish community (and in unsupportive Victoria BC) called, ‘meditation4NDNs everybodywelcome‘ with multiple videos for each story posted at, https://gordonbrentingram.ca/meditation4NDNseverybodywelcome/ ;
  • the paradox of the environmental vulnerability and ecological resilience (with the red-osier dogwood stabilizing Gibraltar Point and protecting the art centre [https://www.instagram.com/p/CrC_stUPdob/]
  • adapting traditions such as Métis willow-weaving, often involving storytelling, and merging sculpture-making with multimedia storytelling
  • multimedia presentations of modern, sardonic stories, as a Métis person and artist, about various ethical quandaries sometimes involving land, community, and finding creative possibilities

impact within contemporary Indigenous culture in Canada

I grew up in an extended family of what is today termed by academics, ‘Indigenous modernists’ who were exceptionally engaged in a number of local languages (Chinook Wawa, HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’ and less so, SENĆOŦEN. My parents had Grade 7 educations but organized ‘study groups’. My Mom was part of an intellectual group of often non-status Indians and was friends with celebrated Haida artist, Bill Reid with whom she danced to Big Band and Bebop. Her father had been an Indian Rights activist in the 1920s. This was the generation that fought hard to challenge and dismantle residential schools and who viewed cultural resurgence as a means toward autonomy and national liberation. Our family was even studied by a famous anthropologist in the 1950s, as a highly assimilated native family, a so-called ‘expert’ who at one point got drunk and took the keys to and totalled my older brother’s new Ford. And there was plenty of pathos: gun violence, suicide, violence against Indigenous women, too often trying to pass as white, and abuse in workplaces. Growing up in this privileged but vulnerable world was tender but weird. My eight stories for these installations will sadden, anger, spook and inspire. At 68 with a long history of art-making and activist scholarship, this project may well be my most important legacy.

As for ‘Métis content’, these stories defy simple interpretations of the many current debates on the marginality yet vibrance of Métis populations in BC and Ontario. The next time an under-educated Indigenous arts administrator traffics in terms such as ‘Métis colonialism’, I’ll be asking where the land is. In the meantime, these stories from a slightly different time are weird, could not have happened to anyone but a well-identified Native child, and as the say goes, “You can’t make this sh-t up.”

location

The proposed site can be seen from the kitchen and main dining room of ArtHubs (formerly Artscape) Gibraltar Point. This site is in sight 1812 Gibraltar Point Lighthouse and some guided access to the top of the lighthouse would provide an exceptional vantage point for viewing the installation.

site selection for the eight sculptures within the Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts campus

With some input from the artist, the final decision on the locations of the eight sculptures will be by Darren Reinhart the site manager on this project and operations manager of Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts.

eight stories with multiple videos

The videos are being completed by April with the video production guidance of celebrated, Sayisi Dene video artist, Zachery Longboy,

and with the guidance of Secwépemc curator, Serena Steel, of North Vancouver’s public centre for contemporary art, Polygon Gallery,

https://thepolygon.ca/news/the-polygons-new-td-curatorial-fellow/

who will screen one of the stories, “bug jam” as part of an installation of new Indigenous video in March, 2024 at Polygon Gallery. All of the videos are swiftly being posted at the video site, meditation4NDNs everybodywelcome as,

https://gordonbrentingram.ca/meditation4NDNseverybodywelcome/

extended timeline for installations combined with video projections & screenings

The initial presentation of several these works, with 8 sculptures, 8 stories, and several versions of most of these video stories, will be in the second week in May. Subsequent installations, screenings, and performances will extend to October 2024.  Other video versions and fragments will be presented as these sculptures are moved and reconfigured over the spring and summer. There will be eight public events with installations, performances and screenings.

fabrication, installation & dis-assembly

phase 1: fabrication & site planning at Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts: February 14 – 26, 2024

phase 2: fabrication & installation at Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts: April 12 – May 30, 2024

phase 3: two initial sculptures with artist and screenings at Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts: May 12 , 2024

phase 4: a total of eight sculptures, installations, performances and screenings May 13 –November 10, 2024

phase 5: dis-assembly of sculptures: November 1 – November 15, 2024

dates for performances & screenings

As the Night Gardens project progresses, the previous installations will still be present (but moved around) and multiple sites and screenings in the woodlands around the campus of the Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts. The following dates have been tentatively scheduled with confirmation in the coming weeks.

  1. performance day 1 Saturday, May 11, 2024 (sculpture 1 & 2 with video 1 & 2)
  2. performance days 2 & 3 Saturday and Sunday, June 22 and 23 (National Indigenous Day weekend) (sculpture 3 & 4 with video 2 & 3) multiple events and workshops hopefully involving Serena Steel and Zachery Longboy
  3. performance day 4 Saturday, late August (sculpture 5 & video 5 plus previous work)
  4. performance day 5 Saturday, September 7 (sculpture 6  & video 6 plus some previous work)
  5. performance days 6 & 7 September 21 & 22 (sculptures 7 & 8 and video 7 & 8 plus all previous work with projections)
  6. performance day 8 & 9s early October (one of a number of public events celebrating Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts 25th anniversary) (all sculptures and videos rearranged with enhanced lighting and projections)
  7. performance day 8 late October (all sculptures and videos rearranged)
  8. performance days 9 and 10 early November, 2024: take down celebrations (all sculptures and videos rearranged)

interim outreach & publicity strategy (as of 2024 February 16)

The focus is on working with and providing content and announcements to the following groups and networks.

  • STEPS Public Art
  • Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts
  • other Toronto Islands organizations
  • Duke Red Bird’s Learning Centre on the T’Karonto Islands
  • Métis Associations in Ontario
  • Mississauga Friendship Group / Circle
  • OCADU (contact, faculty member and Toronto Islands resident, April Hickox)
  • Instant Coffee
  • Akimbo
  • curator Amish Morrel and his environmental art network

ongoing installation with artist maintenance, talks and tours

After the eight opening and performance days, the installations will be left for the summer through to the late autumn. The solar lights would work, without servicing, into the autumn and the first snows. The battery could also be recharged via a USB. Because these systems are not that durable, the lights would eventually go out for each sculptures by sometime in the autumn. 

disassembly & cleanup

In November and late December, the artist will disassemble the sculptures and wiring and cleanup the site.

timeline

September 2023 through January 2024 (BC)

  • video creation and editing
  • sculpture design
  • lighting and battery research
  • willow harvesting
  • fabrication tool assembly
  • initial lighting, projection and battery configuration design

February & March 2024 (Toronto & BC)

  • initial material and tool delivery
  • beginning assembly of material on-site at Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts
  • site selection
  • willow harvesting
  • site and installation planning
  • lighting, projection and battery configuration design
  • video completion
  • publicity and community outreach strategy (February 16 to be expanded)

April 2024 (Ontario and BC)

  • second conveyance of material and tools
  • sculpture and scaffolding assembly
  • site preparation & installation
  • publicity and community outreach
  • video completion and installation

May 2024 (Ontario)

  • further site preparation along with assembly and installation
  • publicity and community outreach
  • video completion and installation

June through October 2024 (Ontario)

  • further site preparation along with assembly and installation
  • performances & screenings
  • sculpture maintenance and probably movement
  • project documentation (in cooperation with STEPS documentarians)
  • addition of lighting and projections

November & December 2024

  • project documentation
  • dis-assembly of installations

Weaving red-osier dogwood & willow on the T’Karonto Islands

early leaf buds of red-osier dogwood, 2023 March 3 Gibraltar Point on the T’Karonto Islands P1010014

Red-osier dogwood has woven together the T’Karonto Islands and this weaving is protecting Artscape Gibraltar Point through climate chaos. People weaving together also weave old and new stories. Weaving stories while weaving red-osier dogwood weaves in a few ideas for deeper stewardship of the red-osier which in turn protects The Point and studios.

Marten-powered Territorial Demarcator #3 * 2021-23 * 80 cm x 110 cm x 140 cm (height) willow (spp.), red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), mountain alder (Alnus incana), and copper wire sources:
Kutenai headwaters on the west side of the Rockies, ĆUÁN (Salt Spring Island), Tkaronto Islands with the collaborative contributions, in the latter stages of creation on March 25, 2023 of Niklas Agarwal; Atanas Bozdarov; Chris Atell; Anne Brackenbury; Sue Carter; Hilary Coleman; Deborah Dewbury; Kathleen Doody; April Hickoy; Maud Ioannidis; Olga Kiosowski; Kate Nankervis; Shulie Smolyanitsky; Sophie Sondhelm; Sammy Tangir; and Ann Trépanier.

Red-osier dogwood beings are often far larger than human beings. The red-osier dogwood shrubs on the T’karonto Islands are often all connected as massive organisms that can extend for hectares. Rafts of Red-osier dogwood roots keep Gibraltar Point from washing away especially with climate change and climate chaos as the waves of Lake Ontario become more violent. Red-osier dogwood thrives with a bit of trimming as long as the roots and main trunks are respected.

Device to Cleanse the Sins of Empire #3 * 2023 * 70 cm x 70 cm x 190 cm (height) willow (spp.), red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), mountain alder (Alnus incana), bull kelp, & copper wire * sources: Kutenai headwaters on the west side of the Rockies, ĆUÁN (Salt Spring Island), Tkaronto Islands with the collaborative contributions, in the latter stages of creation on March 25, 2023 of Niklas Agarwal; Atanas Bozdarov; Chris Atell; Anne Brackenbury; Sue Carter; Hilary Coleman; Deborah Dewbury; Kathleen Doody; April Hickoy; Maud Ioannidis; Olga Kiosowski; Kate Nankervis; Shulie Smolyanitsky; Sophie Sondhelm; Sammy Tangir; and Ann Trépanier.

Red-osier dogwood stretches across North America from Alaska to Newfoundland and higher up in the mountains all the way to northern Mexico. There are more than a hundred Indigenous names and it’s shifting Latin binomial is Cornus sericea.

Red-osier dogwood dominates at Gibraltar Point because it has thrived in the building of the City of Toronto: from the shifting sand caused by all of the erosion and the Nitrogen from a century and a half of barely treated sewage. These day, there is much less Nitrogen going into the lake and the sand that fed Gibraltar Point, that built up so much land over the last two centuries since the lighthouse was built on the beach, is being blocked by a recent breakwater to the east. The raft is shifting and getting smaller.

Wolverine Nest Monitor #3 * 2021-23 * 130 cm x 120 cm x 180 cm (height) willow (spp.),
red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), mountain alder (Alnus incana), and copper wire
sources: Kutenai headwaters on the west side of the Rockies, ĆUÁN (Salt Spring Island), Tkaronto Islands with the collaborative contributions, in the latter stages of creation on March 25, 2023, of Niklas Agarwal; Atanas Bozdarov; Chris Atell; Anne Brackenbury; Sue Carter; Hilary Coleman; Deborah Dewbury; Kathleen Doody; April Hickoy; Maud Ioannidis; Olga Kiosowski; Kate Nankervis; Shulie Smolyanitsky; Sophie Sondhelm; Sammy Tangir; and Ann Trépanier.

It’s fair to say that I got into weaving with willow ten years back to celebrate my Métis heritage. But what is ‘heritage’? Extended family? The people who we love? The people who have loved us? Métis willow-weaving is more often about bringing different groups together, innovation in the face of abjection, and less about focusing on one (transcontinental) tribe.

I began weaving by learning how to mend the Métis willow basket that my parents had put me in as a baby, that my mom gaven me as adult, and that started falling apart. One of the first projects was a birthday present for my partner at the time – a homage to the lamps of twentieth century Japanese-American sculptor, Isamu Noguchi.

In most of the Métis baskets that I have studied, there’s only a bit of red-osier dogwood is for decoration because in much of its distribution, there’s not enough red-osier baskets to make entire baskets of it.

Marten-powered Territorial Demarcator #3 * 2021-23 * 80 cm x 110 cm x 140 cm (height) willow (spp.), red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), mountain alder (Alnus incana), and copper wire
sources: Kutenai headwaters on the west side of the Rockies, ĆUÁN (Salt Spring Island), Tkaronto Islands with the collaborative contributions, in the latter stages of creation on March 25, 2023 of Niklas Agarwal; Atanas Bozdarov; Chris Atell; Anne Brackenbury; Sue Carter; Hilary Coleman; Deborah Dewbury; Kathleen Doody; April Hickoy; Maud Ioannidis; Olga Kiosowski; Kate Nankervis; Shulie Smolyanitsky; Sophie Sondhelm; Sammy Tangir; and Ann Trépanier.

These days, my willow baskets, including with red-osier dogwood, are scaffolding for projecting fragments of stories through sound, photographs and video. The basket is taking on its own lives. The sculptures become incantations for yet undreamed up technologies.

Early on, I started growing willow from traditional kinds of cuttings (just breaking off 6 inches of a branch and sticking that deep in mud and ditches) so some of the willow sculptural pieces that I brought to Gibraltar Point have been growing in a ditch below my studio at KEXMIN field station for the last few years. This far south, willow grows fast in wet ground.

Today, there are lots of signs that Gibraltar Point is retreating into an angry inland sea. The riprap that the city placed at the point shows that they are worried. The red-osier can keep Artscape Gibraltar Point from washing way for a time and in the longer-term the giant red-osier dogwood raft will allow some kind of terrestrial ecosystem stay afloat — to harvest a few stems for weaving baskets and for storytelling.

Wolverine Nest Monitor #3 * 2021-23 * 130 cm x 120 cm x 180 cm (height) willow (spp.),
red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), mountain alder (Alnus incana), and copper wire
sources: Kutenai headwaters on the west side of the Rockies, ĆUÁN (Salt Spring Island), Tkaronto Islands with the collaborative contributions, in the latter stages of creation on March 25, 2023, of Niklas Agarwal; Atanas Bozdarov; Chris Atell; Anne Brackenbury; Sue Carter; Hilary Coleman; Deborah Dewbury; Kathleen Doody; April Hickoy; Maud Ioannidis; Olga Kiosowski; Kate Nankervis; Shulie Smolyanitsky; Sophie Sondhelm; Sammy Tangir; and Ann Trépanier.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Niklas Agarwal, Darren Reinhart, Reece McCrone, and Manuel Coppel of Artscape Gibraltar Point and the weaver artists who participated in ‘the right of spring’ performance as part of building the three willow-red-osier sculptures on March 25, 2023: Niklas Agarwal; Atanas Bozdarov; Chris Atell; Anne Brackenbury; Sue Carter; Hilary Coleman; Deborah Dewbury; Kathleen Doody; April Hickoy; Maud Ioannidis; Olga Kiosowski; Kate Nankervis; Shulie Smolyanitsky; Sophie Sondhelm; Sammy Tangir; and Ann Trépanier.

Funding

Funding and in-kind support for this field research and to make this video came from the Canada Council for the Arts, the First Peoples’ Cultural Council of the Province of British Columbia, Artscape Gibraltar Point, STEPs Public Art, and KEXMIN field station.

Lake Ontario from Gibraltar Point, Toronto * 2023 March 1 Lake Ontario P1010004

willows heal the land & willow weaving reconnects people to the land

2021 November 24 Simpson River Flats – Kutenai Headwaters, unceded Secwépemc, Ktunaxa, and Nakoda territory (British Columbia)  1P3A1033

Kutenai Headwaters (unceded Secwépemc, Ktunaxa, and Nakoda territory) note 3
2021 December 1 Willow Weaving * 14 minutes

 

Willows heal the land

In most of Canada, willow is the first tree or shrub to take root after the land is hurt — from mines, bulldozers, fire, erosion, and avalanches. Willow is a huge genus with hundreds of species all the way around the Northern Hemisphere. In the northern half of North America, we are fortunate to have scores of species of willow involving at least several species in just about every climatic and ecological zone.

To learn about willow in preparation to make art works, I am snoeshoeing through some wild valleys on the west side of the Canadian Rockies. It is November of 2021 and the snow is quickly building up. There are several willow species here along and above the Vermillion, Simpson, and Kutenai Rivers. And in these valleys pummelled by the cold and more often overcast on the west side of the Rockies is a patchwork of willow thickets healing the land from fire, in this case after a massive wildfire in 2003, and regular avalanches, willow constantly reconnects and reweaves the landscape.

In reflecting on my own, Métis willow weaving heritage, I have travelled from the West Coast, where there is a sizeable Métis going back at least two centuries, to the Kutenai Headwaters on the edge of the Métis Homeland. This is the shared territory of the Secwépemc, with the closest community further south near the Columbia River, the Ktunaxa, with communities further south mainly along the Columbia, and the Nakoda whose communities are to the north-east especially along the Bow River Valley in Alberta. These Rocky Mountain valleys with rivers flowing into the Columbia River are unceded and are not covered by any treaties. Today, this valley is claimed by both the Secwépemc and the Ktunaxa nations along with continued presence reasserted by the Nakoda along with Indigenous people like me. And this area is within Kutenai National Park with Parks Canada with a history, that has only partially been corrected, of displacing indigenous communities on their own lands.

Willow is the land’s way of hanging on to precious soil. Willows are often the first woody species to re-establish after a catastrophe and in turn give off growth hormones that help the establishment of other trees including flowering and fruiting trees, such as chokecherry, that provide food for many creatures, including humans, with their flowers and fruit. As long as their roots and the bases of their trunks are respected, willows thrive through being trimmed. Snipping stimulates growth. Sometimes, one in ten fallen twigs take root and eventually become trees and other times, it is one out or a hundred twigs. So when part of a branch is broken and sticks are accidentally dropped, twigs become cuttings and sometimes take root — expanding willow thickets into sunny areas of wetlands and grasslands. In these mountains, willow embodies a will to thrive in the face of harsh conditions. And since the beginning of the end of the last glacial period and probably before, human beings have been consciously inserting willow into soil. In this way, harvesting, planting and weaving willow are acts of love between willows, people, and the land. And willow and humans in northern North America have a deep bond going back well over 15,000 years.

For indigenous people in the northern half of North America, willow knowledge runs deep. For many northern and mountain communities, scores of crucial objects, especially numerous kinds of baskets, were woven often for very specific uses. There are words for willow, willow culture and willow making in scores of Indigenous languages touching on the three oceans. And virtually all of those communities and First Nations governments depended on technologies that required willow. And yet as an Indigenous person, I have found little interest and information in willow in mainstream botany and plant ecology — a bit of interest from ecological restorationists — with increasing interest being generated by Indigenous scientists like me.

I began this investigation into the ecology and aesthetics of Métis-Cree weaving with the basket my parent put me in as a baby — that after a half century had lost a handle and started to unravel at its edges. I started on a journey to understand that basket and to reweave what I was given to then use willow for sculpture and storytelling.

Before we begin to fathom the implications for willow weaving for contemporary Indigenous cultures throughout much of northern North America, it’s worthwhile to learn from some harsher environments such as the Canadian Rockies — where willow were successfully stewarded for many generations. And those legacies, still present in many of these ecosystems and valleys, have much to teach us. Spending time in these ecosystems can give us clues to futures when willow may even be more important with realizations leading to new kinds of land art, sculpture-making and aesthetics — all part of the resurgence of Indigenous cultures and governments.

After willow branches are trimmed, weaving involves decisions over architectures and colour. The bark of some branches is removed with a knife. The Métis basketry that I first knew in the mid-twentieth century was mostly stripped and blonde and that was probably for the broader market at the time. But the debarked willow is weaker in the long-term. Traditionally, the majority of willow baskets involved dark, unstripped branches with the stripped, blonde staffs used to create patterns.

In making contemporary sculpture that honours Cree-Métis willow weaving, I have been envisioning a basket placed upside down with digital devices attached inside the inverted shell: a vessel to hold futuristic devices with combinations of functions producing light, still and video projections, and sounds. In my work, each of these inverted baskets has a name and a partially imagined use in social projects related to resurgence of culture, populations, and renewed relationships to land.

This sculpture assembled in November of 2021 at Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity is envisioned as a Badger Sett Cleaning Apparatus in a time when badgers, native to the area but increasingly rare, are particularly vulnerable to climate change and habitat destruction. Badgers, like human beings, often live in large communities, setts, and are highly social while not monogamous. Their setts can get messy while the habitat available to move on to is increasingly limited. So this device is to maintain as much nesting habitat as possible. I extend this appreciation for badger relations to human communities where light can be part of illuminating and cleansing a pressurized space or organization extending to educational institutions in this same part of the Canadian Rockies.

A drawing from a November 15, 2021 visit to The Cave, the original hot springs used and stewarded by members of four different Indigenous language groups and nations, in what is today Banff National Park. This visit was supervised by Nakoda seer, Daryl Kootenay, in preparation for creative work on the land — in my case in the upper headwaters of the Kutenai River nearby on the other side of the Continental Divide. Based on Daryl visioning exercise, the rock ceiling of The Cave in Banff is envisioned as made up of thousands of birds flying close together moving up and out of the cave through the blue sky at the centre of the drawing.

2021 November 24 Simpson River Flats in the headwaters of the Kutenai River near and on the west side of the Continental Divide

Forecast exhibit, on futurist responses to climate change as part of 2023 DesignTo Festival, Tkaronto / Toronto

The three willow sculptures in the Forecast exhibit are show here from left to right: Device to Cleanse the Sins of Empire #2; Wolverine Sett Monitor #2 2022-23; and Marten-powered Territorial Demarcator #2. These works were completed in 2022 and re-assembled in 2023. Some of the drawings, completed in 2021 and 2022, are shown from left to right: sometimes they hurt you; tikegh = love | closhe illahie = garden; Akunumusǂitis series 2021 November 15-21 cave vision above Mni Rhpa, Rocky Mountains; and Akunumusǂitis series 2021 November 22 – 28 Harvesting willow in 2 feet of snow [Kutenai Headwaters].

Forecast is an exhibit of 2023 DesignTO (Toronto) and presented by United Contemporary Gallery and Harbourfront Centre, January 11 – February 04, 2023 Curated by Deborah Wang and Olga Klosowski Schellenberg with external jurors Melanie Egan and Chiedza Pasipanodya.

‘Forecast’ is a group exhibition featuring the work of nine local and international artists and designers exploring themes related to the climate crisis specifically as it relates to the weather and how environmental changes impact communities on a global scale. Featuring Christina Battle, Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram, Vardit Goldner, Grace Grothaus, Lisa Hirmer, Malu Luecking, Joel Ong, Daisy Pearson, and Allison Rowe, this multidisciplinary exhibition includes a broad range of work in video, photography, sculpture, installation, textiles and speculative design to capture, critique and investigate the current realities of and future solutions to living with the consequences of the temperature rising. These artists and designers respond to their experiences of climate change by indexing them to human activities, looking to the past and present for weather patterns, forecasting future activities and environments, and speculating on how we can move forward under this terrifying and complex reality.

Special thanks to Melanie Trojkovic and Burke Paterson of United Contemporary Gallery and the entire DesignTO Festival 2023! Funding for bringing this work to Tkaronto was from the Canada Council for the Arts, the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (of the Province of British Columbia), and DesignTO.
https://designto.org/event/forecast/

Wolverine Sett Monitor #2 2022-23 * 140 cm x 120 cm x 180 cm (height) willow (spp.), chokecherry
(Prunus virginiana), mountain alder (Alnus incana), bull kelp, and wire
Device to Cleanse the Sins of Empire #2 2022-23 * 140 cm x 120 cm x 180 cm (height)
willow (spp.), chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), mountain alder (Alnus incana),
and wire

Device to Cleanse the Sins of Empire #2 * 2022-23 140 cm x 120 cm x 180 cm (height)
willow (spp.), chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), mountain alder (Alnus incana),
and wire.

Wolverine Sett Monitor #2 * 2021-23 170 cm x 155 cm x 190 cm (height)
willow (spp.), mountain alder (Alnus incana), and wire with drawing right of centre: Akunumusǂitis series: 2021 November 15-21 cave vision above Mni Rhpa, Alberta Rockies * 2021 55 cm x 75 cm materials: pencil, graphite, conté, soft pastel, crayon & pigment on paper
two willow sculptures from left to right: Wolverine Sett Monitor #2 2021-23 170 cm x 155 cm x 190 cm (height) willow (spp.), mountain alder (Alnus incana), and wire and to the right; Marten-powered Territorial Demarcator #2 2021-23 * 120 cm x 110 cm x 140 cm (height) willow (spp.), mountain alder (Alnus incana), and wire + 2 drawings: left: Akunumusǂitis series: 2021 November 15-21 cave vision above Mni Rhpa, Alberta Rockies 2021 * right: Akunumusǂitis series: 2021 November 22 – 28 Harvesting willow in 2 feet of snow [Kutenai Headwaters] 2021 both 55 cm x 75 cm pencil, graphite, conté, soft pastel, crayon & pigment on paper
Marten-powered Territorial Demarcator #2 2022-23 120 cm x 110 cm x 140 cm (height)
willow (spp.), mountain alder (Alnus incana), and wire
Marten-powered Territorial Demarcator #2 * 2021-23 * 120 cm x 110 cm x 140 cm (height)
willow (spp.), mountain alder (Alnus incana), and wire
Marten-powered Territorial Demarcator #2 * 2021-23 120 cm x 110 cm x 140 cm (height) willow (spp.),
mountain alder (Alnus incana), and wire
two of the six drawings: left: sometimes they hurt you * 2022 55 cm x 75 cm pencil, graphite, conté, soft pastel, crayon & pigment on paper & right: tikegh = love | closhe illahie = garden 2022 * 55 cm x 75 cm pencil,
graphite, conté, soft pastel, crayon & pigment on paper
sometimes they hurt you * 2022 55 cm x 75 cm pencil, graphite, conté, soft pastel, crayon & pigment on paper
tikegh = love | closhe illahie = garden 2022 * 55 cm x 75 cm pencil, graphite, conté, soft pastel, crayon & pigment on paper
drawings: left: Akunumusǂitis series 2021 November 15-21 cave vision above Mni Rhpa, Rocky Mountains 2021 55 cm x 75 cm pencil, graphite, conté, soft pastel, crayon & pigment on paper & right: Akunumusǂitis series 2021 November 22 – 28 Harvesting willow in 2 feet of snow [Kutenai Headwaters] 2021 * 55 cm x 75 cm pencil, graphite, conté, soft pastel, crayon & pigment on paper
chokecherry bark detail from, Wolverine Sett Monitor #2 * 2021-23 * 170 cm x 155 cm x 190 cm (height) willow (spp.), mountain alder (Alnus incana), chokecherry bark, and wire

willow and bull kelp detail, Wolverine Sett Monitor #2 * 2021-23 * 170 cm x 155 cm x 190 cm (height) willow (spp.), mountain alder (Alnus incana), chokecherry bark, bull kelp, and wire

willow and chokecherry bark detail, Wolverine Sett Monitor #2 * 2021-23 * 170 cm x 155 cm x 190 cm (height) willow (spp.), mountain alder (Alnus incana), chokecherry bark, bull kelp, and wire
Akunumusǂitis series 2021 November 22 – 28 Harvesting willow in 2 feet of snow [Kutenai Headwaters]
2021 55 cm x 75 cm pencil, graphite, conté, soft pastel, crayon & pigment on paper
Akunumusǂitis series 2021 November 22 – 28 Harvesting willow in 2 feet of snow [Kutenai Headwaters] *
2021 * 55 cm x 75 cm pencil, graphite, conté, soft pastel, crayon & pigment on paper
she talked to snakes | closhe illahie = garden * 2022 * 55 cm x 75 cm pencil, graphite, conté, soft pastel, crayon & pigment on paper
she talked to snakes | closhe illahie = garden * 2022 * 55 cm x 75 cm pencil, graphite, conté, soft pastel, crayon & pigment on paper
Device to Cleanse the Sins of Empire #1 * 2022 * 55 cm x 75 cm pencil, graphite, conté, soft pastel, crayon & pigment on paper
Device to Cleanse the Sins of Empire #1 * 2022 * 55 cm x 75 cm pencil, graphite, conté, soft pastel, crayon & pigment on paper

Drawings with Michif & Chinook Wawa as willow sculpture studies: Autumn 2022

faroosh = wild * September 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with pencil,
graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso

These drawings function as notes, maps, and storyboards linking the woven willow sculptures and the video and audio works, with their respective stories, that these scaffolds project. Many of the drawings involve words in Chinook Wawa, Michif and English. Michif, the Métis language, is a product of the four centuries of the wedding of French and multiple Cree languages along with a score of other central and Western Canadian languages east of the Rockies. On the West Coast, Chinook Wawa was strongly influenced by the French and some key Indigenous words from Michif in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries while centred on the Indigenous trade language spanning Vancouver Island and the Columbia River. Growing up on south-eastern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, I was one of the last individuals with any training in Chinook Wawa, taught by my father, but was discouraged from speaking in French with relatives who spoke north-western Canadian French and Michif dialects.

sometimes they hurt you * September 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with
pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
tikegh = love * September 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with pencil,
graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
aen nil = island * October 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with pencil,
graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
a tayr faroosh = wild land * October 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with
pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
skookum statejay = powerful island * October 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with
pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
tikegh = love | closhe illahie = garden * October 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper
with pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
zhaardayn = garden * October 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with pencil,
graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
she talked to snakes | closhe illahie = garden * November 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper
with pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
tikegh = love + zhaardayn = garden * November 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper
with pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
kloshe illahie = garden + she talked to snakes * November 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper
with pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso

Drawings with Michif & Chinook Wawa as willow sculpture studies: Summer 2022

la tayr saakrii = sacred land * August 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with
pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso

These drawings function as notes, maps, and storyboards linking the woven willow sculptures and the video and audio works, with their respective stories, that these scaffolds project. Many of the drawings involve words in Chinook Wawa, Michif and English. Michif, the Métis language, is a product of the four centuries of the wedding of French and multiple Cree languages along with a score of other central and Western Canadian languages east of the Rockies. On the West Coast, Chinook Wawa was strongly influenced by the French and some key Indigenous words from Michif in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries while centred on the Indigenous trade language spanning Vancouver Island and the Columbia River. Growing up on south-eastern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, I was one of the last individuals with any training in Chinook Wawa, taught by my father, but was discouraged from speaking in French with relatives who spoke north-western Canadian French and Michif dialects.

le map map illahee * July 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with pencil,
graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso

skookum illahie = powerful landscape * July 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with
pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso

lemolo illahie = wild land * August 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with pencil,
graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
illahie = land * August 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with pencil,
graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
illahie sagalie = sacred land * August 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with
pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
osihcikêwin = plan * August 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with pencil,
graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
aen nil maaroon = wild island * September 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with
pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
lemolo statejay = wild island * September 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with
pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso

she talked to snakes * September 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with
pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
sometimes they will hurt you * September 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with
pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso

Summer 2022 drawings in preparation for gathering willow & black hawthorn stalks

These drawings function as notes, maps, and storyboards linking the woven willow sculptures and the video and audio works, with their respective stories, that these scaffolds project. Many of the drawings involve words in Chinook Wawa, Michif and English. Michif, the Métis language, is a product of the four centuries of the wedding of French and multiple Cree languages along with a score of other central and Western Canadian languages east of the Rockies. On the West Coast, Chinook Wawa was strongly influenced by the French and some key Indigenous words from Michif in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries while centred on the Indigenous trade language spanning Vancouver Island and the Columbia River. Growing up on south-eastern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, I was one of the last individuals with any training in Chinook Wawa, taught by my father, but was discouraged from speaking in French with relatives who spoke north-western Canadian French and Michif dialects.

2022 July * la map * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing with ink, crayon, conté, water colour & stale espresso

2022 July * skookum illahie * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with ink, conté crayon, water colour & stale espresso

2022 July * la tayr faroosh * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with ink, conté crayon, water colour & stale espresso

2022 August * la tayr maaroon * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with ink, conté crayon, water colour & stale espresso

2022 August * la tary saakrii 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with ink, conté crayon, water colour & stale espresso

2022 August * lemolo illahie * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with ink, conté crayon, water colour & stale espresso

2022 August * osihcikêwin * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with ink, conté crayon, water colour & stale espresso

Two drawings from the Kutenai Headwaters, unceded Secwépemc, Ktunaxa, and Nakoda territory (British Columbia)

title: skookum (powerfully transformative)[Chinook Wawa] background: created as part of the Banff Centre for Art and Creativity Akunumusǂitis project and begun in the Kutenai Headwaters, developed in Mni Rpa (Banff Centre [Nakoka]) in November 2021 and completed on ĆUÁN (Salt Spring Island [SENĆOŦEN]) in July 2022 * 57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso
title: la zway (the joy) [Michif] background: created as part of the Banff Centre for Art and Creativity
Akunumusǂitis project and begun in the Kutenai Headwaters and developed in Mni Rpa (Banff Centre
[Nakoka]) in November 2021 and completed on ĆUÁN (Salt Spring Island [SENĆOŦEN]) in July 2022
57 cm X 75 cm drawing on paper with pencil, graphite, ink, conté crayon, soft pastel, pigment, water colour & stale espresso

Device to Cleanse the Sins of Empire #1 (willow, chokecherry & big-leaf maple wood harvested + assembled on ĆUÁN [SENĆOŦEN] (Salt Spring Island)

2022 February 25 Device to Cleanse the Sins of Empire #1 1P3A1275

Device to Cleanse the Sins of Empire #1  was commissioned for a personal collection and was made of willow, chokecherry and big-leaf maple wood. Harvested and assembled on ĆUÁN [SENĆOŦEN] (Salt Spring Island) over the course of February 2022, the British Empire was often in mind during its making. But other empires did pierce creative conversations and then completion was almost simultaneous with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

details: 180 cm x 120 cm x 100 cm, willow (Salix spp.), chokecherry (Prunus virginia), and apple cultivated by artist (Malus domestica), iron wire, LED bulb with cord

2022 February 25 Device to Cleanse the Sins of Empire 1P3A1254 + design notes

2022 February 25 Device to Cleanse the Sins of Empire 1P3A1296