Interland Memories no.3. Digital Print, 2014 | Image Source: WIOT Magazine
Our communities are much like the ecosystem of rivers and lakes. Without new ideas flowing in, they cannot sustain bimaadiziwin.
As an artist who is lucky enough travel and do residencies all over the world, one of the most meaningful teachings I have ever been given is one related to Ma’iingan (wolf). Each Anishinaabe person has their specific clan, and mine happens to be the wolf. Each clan or family (doodem) has its traditional responsibilities and roles within the community, and they all work together in synergy to create a communal sense of health.
I am not entirely sure when I was first given the teaching of the the Ma’iingan doodem, but it was likely at the Maadoodsin (sweatlodge) ceremony where I was given my clan. I was told that the wolf clan people were traditionally the teachers in the community and as such they were the ones that often left to visit and learn from other communities. There were always people from this clan that would travel great distances, sometimes for years at a time, to learn and then return home with new ways of seeing the world. This is what all good teachers strive for.
From the moment I was given this teaching it resonated strongly. I’ve always had a driving urge to travel and to see new things. Back in my late teens, however, this travel seemed like a far-away possibility. Little did I know that over the years it would all make sense and this wolf clan teaching would become a foundational aspect of my art practice and my life.
Often, leaving our communities can be a double edged sword. Some perceive it as abandoning our families and the important issues that exist right at home. This can make it hard for those that feel the pull of the world outside and leave them with fear or guilt for wanting to leave.
The reality is that our own teachings tell us that for some of us, this desire to see what’s over the horizon is essential to the health of everyone around us. A community that does not have a steady influx of new ideas and perspectives inevitably stagnates and ceases to prosper. Our communities are much like the ecosystem of rivers and lakes. Without new water and ideas flowing in, they cannot sustain bimaadiziwin (good life).
As an artist who works with communities all over the world, I feel that being given this teaching of the wolf clan early on in life gave me the necessary strength and validation to travel. In fact, this is an essential part of my responsibility as Ma’iingan Doodem.
Accompanying images: These are from a series I created in Parramatta, Australia during a residency. It looks at the idea of being linked to our home regardless of where we travel in the world, as we are always connected by the earth and the memories in the land. Each image pairs a tree from my own community, birch and poplar, with a eucalyptus tree indigenous to that territory.
Scott is an Anishinabe intermedia artist who works primarily in photography, printmaking and video. His most recent work has been centered on cultural crisis/conflict and its political manifestations, as they are located and contextualized around issues of Indigeniety from a global perspective. Website