Cultural Art belongs to us all. It is our inheritance. And we are all just the conduits. For those of us on the end of teaching and sharing about our cultural arts, we can often empty out our rivers. Lately I've been feeling that I'd given away all I had. When we feel the river running dry it is time to find the sources that fill us up. I know what I need is some time with people on the step above me. I need some time with our elder artists, historians, and mentors. They carry stories, information, laughter, and are so full of the wisdom of experience.
This weekend I spent time with one of my mentors Wendy Savage, expert moccasin maker, teacher, and curator. We motored up to Thunder Bay with my kids to see the Christi Belcourt "Uprising" exhibit. Belcourt's work is the stuff of dreams. As Wendy pointed out when we look at her work "you really know she understands beadwork." Marveling over her paintings we recalled dreams and otherwordly experiences brought back into our memory by her work. This why we need our people creating art. We need them to jog our memory.
This morning we met with Marcie Macyntire, expert moccasin maker in what we call here "that grand portage style." Often made with felt and fur, the Grand Portage/Canadian style pucker toe moccasins are quintissentially Ojibwe. They hold the simplicity, the restraint, and the grace of what our moccasins can be. Marcie teaches Makizinikewin as well as works in her beautiful store "Ningii-Ozhitoomin" right in Grand Portage Reservation. Her mother Ellen Olson is "one of those old ladies" who north shore folks recall beading in the stockade with the other ladies. Both women are expert beadworkers, community advocates, and teachers. Marcie showed us her work, her store, and talked about consitutional reform, tribal politics, and her strategies for teaching.
Leaving this experience I feel the river flowing again. Don't forget to find the source of your rivers.