…required a person to “…carry the Wampum of Peace in one hand, and the acts of war in the other…”
MUSKRAT Magazine was proud to be in attendance at the iakwé:iahre (we remember) Colloquium which took place from October 16-18 , 2014 in Montréal, Québec. Presented by the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective* (ACC), iakwé:iahre (we remember) is the sixth in a series of ongoing colloquia, and the first to take place in the province of Québec. The colloquium presented diverse panels, performance art, and art tours to celebrate and ruminate on the concept of historical archives and the many ways in which museums do not accurately represent Indigenous culture, and often skew or misrepresent who we are as people. Aboriginal art holds meaning beyond the object within a sterile glass case, removed from the viewer. It is often meant to be worn, to be performed, and to be an interactive, living part of our lives.
On Friday, we attended the first panel called Indigenous Art Institutions in Québec, moderated by Nadine St-Louis, and featured short talks from four trailblazing artists and activists from Québec: Martin Loft (Kahnawake), Sonia Roberston (Mashteuiatsh), Michel Savard (Wendake), and André Dudemaine (Montréal). The panellists spoke about their roles in bringing back an Indigenous presence to the major cities of Québec, and how each of their respective communities have been and continue to be transformed through art and the archive.
An emphasis during the presentations was on the importance of community. Strengthening community and the coming together of heart, mind, and spirit have been essential to Indigenous cultural reclamation, not only in Québec but also throughout Turtle Island. The idea is that the survival of all cultures lies in the memory and action of the people, and is thus a living archive—an archive in action—that preserves important cultural traditions while also propelling our traditions forward for future generations.
Martin Akwiranoron Loft, director of the Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center at Kahnewake, spoke of their language immersion camps, wampum bead-makers, and the resurgence of traditional arts and crafts facilitated through the centre. Speaking to the effectiveness of such purposeful cultural reclamation, he proudly stated, “When we first started about 20 years ago, there were less than a dozen people making traditional Mohawk moccasins. Now, there are just about 100 carrying on the tradition.”
The sites of Montréal, Trois-Rivières, and Québec City were all originally large Indigenous settlements prior to colonization. Now, these sites remain as the largest cities and towns in Québec, and many of them show little or no traces of the past. People like André Dudemaine, who has been the director of the Montréal First People’s Festival for 22 years, have been fighting for decades to help bring back an Indigenous presence to these urban centres in Québec. Though not an easy task, and one which required a person to “carry the Wampum of Peace in one hand, and the acts of war in the other,” Dudemaine was successful in creating the First People’s Festival, and having it take place overtly in downtown Montréal.
Fighting the same battles in other regions of Québec were artists and activists Teharihulen Michel Savard from the Wendat of Wendake First Nation, and Sonia Robertson from Mashteuiatsh. Savard has seen success in his own community as curator of the Huron-Wendat Museum, where political artworks have helped to unite the community and open their eyes to the greater Indigenous struggle. Robertson has seen the same through her archaeological and artistic exhibits in her own hometown, which have helped to foster a cultural exchange between tourists and the people in her community.
All of these artists and activists (and many more!) have been crucial to the resurgence of Indigenous culture in Québec, and continue to fight for the survival of their people.
*The Aboriginal Curatorial Collective /Collectif des Conservateurs autochtones (ACC/CCA) is a national arts service organization that supports, promotes and advocates on behalf of Canadian and international Aboriginal curators, critics, artists and representatives of arts and cultural organizations. The ACC/CCA develops and disseminates curatorial practices, innovative research and critical discourses on Aboriginal arts and culture. By fostering collaboration and exchange the ACC/CCA builds an equitable space for the Aboriginal intellectual and artistic community.
Nadine St-Louis, a Métis woman of Algonquin origin, is on a unique and diverse journey. In 1994 she obtained her BFA (English Literature, Cinematography and Communications) from Concordia University. At l’Université de Montréal, Nadine pursued Graduate Studies in Art History, studying theories of representation and modernity with a focus on the absence of representation of Aboriginal cultures in mainstream media as an effect of post-colonialism. Already, preoccupation with the lack of an Aboriginal presence in contemporary culture was manifesting within her. Since 2003, Nadine has worked at Aboriginal Voices Radio and the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, and has been a consultant for the Canada Council for the Arts and the Tshakapesh Institute. In 2006, Nadine became a Capacity Development Agent for Innu artists. For six years, she organized painting symposia under the banner Mamu, meaning “together” in the Innu language, expressing the power of a project essential to intercultural exchange and understanding, featuring both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal visual artists. In 2013, Nadine became the first Curator of the 11 Nations Cultural Space, gathering the eleven nations of Québec under one roof at the Marché Bonsecours in Old Montréal.
Martin Akwiranoron Loft was born in Kahnawake, Mohawk Territory in 1960. He is a photographer, printmaker, and craftsperson. He was a founding member of the Native Indian Inuit Photographers’ Association (NIIPA, 1985-2000), an influential indigenous artists’ organization that presented Visions, the first international Indigenous photography conference and touring exhibition. Martin has exhibited his photography, traditional crafts, and prints nationally and internationally at such venues as at the National Museum of the American Indian, Museum of Civilization, Iroquois Indian Museum, Mashantucket Pequot Museum, McCord Museum, and the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic, which recently hosted the On the Paths of the Iroquois exhibition. Since 1988, Martin has been worked in his community of Kahnawake and is presently Public Programs Supervisor at the Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center, where he coordinates community outreach activities, including culture and history workshops, conferences, art workshops, and visual arts exhibitions. Martin has a strong interest in Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) language and is a graduate of the Ratiwennahnirats Mohawk Immersion. He is presently producer of a Mohawk language talk show featured on K103 FM and streamed live weekly. He is a proud supporter of language revitalization throughout all of the Mohawk Nation and has represented our Cultural Center’s language programming at numerous language revitalization conferences and symposia.
Sonia Robertson is a multidisciplinary artist. She was born in Mashteuiatsh, where she currently lives. Sonia studied photography and film in Montréal, and then completed an interdisciplinary BFA in Chicoutimi in 1996, where she started her work in the field of installation. Her artistic commitment is ongoing, and is inspired by the search for unity, the consideration of different polarities, shifts in perception, appreciation, and repetitive actions. She works in situ, relying on the places and events that she experiences. In her work, she explores the fields of installation, action art, language, and sound. Her work has been presented in Canada, France, Haiti, Japan, and Mexico. In addition to her artistic practice, she and 11 other artists founded the TouT-TouT artist studios in Chicoutimi. In 2001, driven by her passion for plants and her desire to help her community, she founded the Association du Parc-sacré – Kanatukuliuetsh uapikun, an organization seeking to preserve and pass on the knowledge of medicinal plants. From 2005 to 2009, she worked at the Native Museum of Mashteuiatsh as a Project Manager, using a community-based approach, and for the Nuhtshimitsh (in the Forest) interpretation site. In 2009, she started part-time training in Art Therapy at the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue. She has been on the board of directors of the Société d’histoire et d’archéologie de Mashteuiatsh since 2010. In 2011, she joined other artists from her community to organize arts and culture events such as the Atalukan story festival at Camping Plage Robertson to create a space for intercultural exchange between tourists and the people in her community.
Teharihulen Michel Savard is a member of the Wendat of Wendake First Nation of Québec, and is Curator at the Huron-Wendat Museum, Wendake. He a Wendat activist and a founding member of the Wendake Akiawenrahk Longhouse. A graduate of the Aboriginal Training Program in Museum Practices at the Canadian Museum of History, Michel is also a trained jeweller, specializing in traditional trade silver as well as contemporary pieces. In addition, he makes traditional birch-bark objects and wampum belts, called “colliers de vérité.” His research is devoted to Wendat traditions and this knowledge is reflected in the pieces that he makes; each is unique. In 2013 Michel took part in the Wampum Project, a commemorative initiative of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The wampum belt he made for the Project symbolizes its mission: coming together in the spirit of truth. Michel also has a contemporary arts practice; his works Reciprocity (2008) and Proactive Disclosure (2009) appeared in the exhibition The Indian Act Revisited at the McCord Museum (Montréal) in 2011. His new work is currently in the exhibition Résistance: Plus jamais l’inaction at the Huron-Wendat Museum until November 4, 2014.
André Dudemaine is the founder and director of Land InSights, an organization that promotes the growth of Aboriginal culture. For the past 22 years, André has also been the director of the multidisciplinary Montréal First Peoples Festival, an international event reflecting the cultural and artistic vitality of First Nations in North America. He was the co-chair for the commemoration of the tercentenary of the Great Peace of Montréal (1701-2001). From 2002 to 2004, he served on the board of directors of the Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network (APTN). Mr. Dudemaine has taught the First Nations and Film course in Concordia University’s Department of Film Studies, and directed and produced Abijévis, an experimental short film screened at the Belfort Festival in 1986. He is a regular contributor to the magazine 24 Images; acts as a representative of the ART-CULTURE committee of the Montréal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network; and has served as a member of the board of Culture Montréal since the organization’s inception.