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Little Moose – Mozoons  by Anishinaabe artist Donald Chretien | Image source: Donald Chretien.

NIPISSING FIRST NATION — The Cultural Events Organizer has a great time at work, especially when it’s the 4th Annual Nipissing First Nation Artist Gathering and Art Show.

Jules Armstrong designed the event to be fun. “You get to listen to music all day. You get to socialize and see what everyone has been up to all winter long.”

The Nbisiing Secondary School hosted the event on the shore of beautiful Lake Nipissing. Armstrong says she is proud of her community. “We all come out together. It’s the amazing part of being a small community.”

The Nipissing First Nation Artist Gathering and Art Show is kept local. Armstrong says the show has a few artists that come from further away. “We do have to branch out I guess because we are looking for a specific art form and artists whose expression is in paint and sculpture.”

Nipissing First Nation citizen Donald Chretien is an Aboriginal Fine Artist now based in Newmarket. Chretien is energized by nature using elements of the woodland school. In looking back, he uses imagery of pictographs as inspiration.

NFN Artist Donald Chretien
Nipissing First Nation artist Donald Chretien from New Market shows his woodland-style dodems to potential buyers. | Image source: Anishinabek News

The morning the show opened, offers were made on two of his paintings. With a twinkle in his eye he offered wise words to those with the artist within.

”It’s really tough any time you start anything. So just hang in there. Longevity is what put me at the forefront. All of the people try and fail, as I have before. But you just have to keep going at it. I’ve been painting ever since I was a child. I was in the commercial world for a long time. Now, this is far more rewarding and this is where I’m supposed to be. I walk in the forest as much as I can.”

Armstong says the arts festival likes to keep their musicians local with musicians just starting out and musicians already in the limelight. “We have a young group from the Friendship Centre who entertained us and we even had a young man from Tyendinaga First Nation who covers the Beatles in Mohawk. We also had our elders who sang in Ojibway and wanted to share.”

Armstrong says members of Nipissing First Nation are talented so the Artist Gathering and Art Show is a day to share amongst NFN and other communities. “We have so much musical and artistic talent that members don’t usually get a chance to showcase their work say at a ceremony. So we want to celebrate their uniqueness and efforts. Who would have thought of a Mohawk Beatle.”

Well-known country singer/songwriter Josh Stevens had to be bumped up to an earlier time to travel to Ottawa to perform in a competition. Stevens is stoked on his new promoter so he can create music. “With this promotion deal I’m all over the place. He books the gigs and I show up and sing. I’ve done a tour on six different reserves, I called it my RezTour. Country is a big thing with people. I grew up with it. I like rock n roll too, but country is where my heart has always been. Last year was a big year for me. I played a bunch of festivals and got my name out there. This year might be even bigger.”

Walking around the venue I’m politely sidelined by an armed man, Sean Corbeil. Corbeil was offering a spear thrower for sale. There was a stand displaying them labeled with a name strange to me, Atlatl. Corbeil explained the name is derived from the Spanish. The Inuk name for the tool that took down Woolly Mammoths and the Woodland Caribou was too long for me to get down the spelling.

“I made this tool to show what our ancestors used 5000 to 7000 years ago. Archeologists say the tool would have been un-shafted. It gave me the experience of making it and learning to work with it. “When Christopher Columbus claimed he discovered America, he learned how deadly this was. When he landed, he was using percussion cap guns. I could have fired off 5 of these shots before he would have packed his gun. A few men were killed with this weapon.

What you do, is hold it here. I modified the arrow so there is a peg in there and then, you throw it. You hang on and you whip it. It can go one hundred miles an hour.”

Working for Parks Canada as a heritage interpreter has Corbeil working along archeologists. “It was made to keep your weapon quiet and give more whipping power. A lot of farmers find them when they are tilling their fields.”

Another hot item at the show was brightly coloured t-shirts made by Red Road Digital Design. Artist Reno Couchie enjoys the popularity of his design incorporating historical photos of Indigenous people in a contemporary image.

With the 5th NFN Artist Gathering and Show to look forward to, there will be many more talented artists to admire and feature next year.

This article was republished with permission from Anishinabek News.

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MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

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