Ep. 7: Larissa Desrosiers, Benny Michaud and Christine Toulouse

March 15, 2021 00:57:09
Ep. 7: Larissa Desrosiers, Benny Michaud and Christine Toulouse
To Be Continued: A Stonecroft Symposium Podcast
Ep. 7: Larissa Desrosiers, Benny Michaud and Christine Toulouse

Show Notes

Welcome to Episode 7 of “To Be Continued: A Stonecroft Symposium Podcast”! 

In this episode, Larissa Desrosiers, Benny Michaud and Christine Toulouse talk about beading, quillwork and Indigeneity, and weaving into community history through their own archival productions. 

“To Be Continued: Troubling the Queer Archive” is on view at Carleton University Art Gallery. Featuring: Barry Ace, Howard Adler, Aymara Alvarado Sanchez, Pansee Atta, Rosalie Favell, Ashley Grenstone, RJ Jones, Don Kwan, Ed Kwan AKA China Doll, Kole Peplinskie, Adrienne Row-Smith, Pride Is Political, Shanghai Restaurant. 

Produced by Fin Xuan Tran, Anna Shah Hoque, Cara Tierney, this episode was recorded in Ottawa, on unceded Algonquin territory. 

The graphic for this podcast features beaded pins by Ottawa-based artist and musician Larissa Desrosiers (Anishinaabe/Ojibwe). The pins were commissioned as gifts for the podcast participants. You can find more of her work at @bangishimonbeadwork. 

CUAG acknowledges with sincere gratitude the support of the Stonecroft Foundation for the Arts, which promotes education in the visual arts and fosters the public’s appreciation of the visual arts. 

Find more about the exhibition on CUAG's website: http://cuag.ca 

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:08 Welcome to, to be continued, a stone Croft symposium podcast. In today's episode, I speak with Benny Michelle, Christine Toulouse, and Larysa rosier about beating co-work indigeneity and weaving into community and history through your own archival production. Speaker 0 00:00:25 Yes. Speaker 1 00:00:31 Hi everyone. Welcome to a second season of TVC. Um, you know, it's interesting today, we're actually trying something new, at least for me, which is we're recording on Zencaster, which is our audio podcast software, but we're also joining in via video zoom on a second device. So it's kind of really nice to be able to see people's faces while we're also engaging in conversations. I feel like we can't say the P word like pandemic without someone wanting to be like, uh, no more we're done. Um, but you know, we are a mid-sized global pandemic and it feels more pressing than ever before to hear about stories that bring us to re-examine our shared existence through storytelling. So this podcast series is an extension of, to be continued troubling, the queer archive, which is an art exhibit that's taking place between September and may, 2021 at Carlton university art gallery, the show and today's conversations, both take place on unceded unsurrendered Algonquin territory. Speaker 1 00:01:30 The intention of this show is to amplify honor and celebrate the realities of QT BiPAP folks. It's been an ongoing process to think through the ways universities and galleries and our work within them are either complicit in sustaining existing power structures or deploy to creatively disarticulate them, especially when we think through the archives that these spaces are implicated and also producing towards in terms of nation making projects. So as such the show is specifically designed to think through what intervening or interrupting these processes can look like today. I'm really stoked to hear about how creative productions through bead work and Quill work, and we'll have a little bit more chat on what makes them so distinct. Um, can trace lineages through the texture and tangibility of a work of art. What does it mean to weave yourself into community and history through your own archival production? Speaker 1 00:02:20 My name is Ana Shaw Hawk and I, along with Carra Tierney are the coal curators have to be continued. The show comes out of a desire to build and share stories from the community. So as to reorient our relationship to land space and place, how do we envision history? How do we negotiate our communities into the center? When oftentimes the normative stories do not reflect this. So as readily art and creative productions have played their own role in helping me on make my understanding of being a refugee and indigenous territories arts informed me about concurrent alternate genealogies of community in the context of what is currently Canada, while some made me pause and reflect on unpacking the malevolent and destructive nature of settler colonial violence. Others made me long for my own histories to know of my families as they experienced a very different genealogy and association to violence in other geographies. Speaker 1 00:03:11 So the kinds of access we have to information whose stories become centralized as neutral and the archives, we think hold an accurate telling of disparate and diverse communities, all play a role in how we come to make sense of ourselves. And by virtue of that, how we're conditioned to not see past the center today, we're going to talk about community, our practices, indigeneity, and the work each of you are doing to build alternate archives. I'm interested to hear you reflect and remember moments that have significantly shaped your own entry point into beading. And co-work through our conversations. I'm hoping that our audience will also reflect and reconsider the ways people produce themselves into the archives that are not necessarily the archive that we imagine in, you know, in concrete and cement, in case buildings with artifacts that are tied to the language of quote unquote official archives. With that said, I'm going to ask each of you to introduce and tell us a bit about who you are and how you are. Then he can ask you to go first. Speaker 2 00:04:11 Sure. Tom, check you out. My name is Benny Michaux. My mid-shift name is Oana, not the way a wheel Donald sort of chair, which means medicine person from the South. I am a mid-shift person. My family is originally from Saint Barnabas and Winnipeg, but I've been living in Ontario and other places, other territories and Algonquin territory for the last 11 years now, Speaker 1 00:04:37 Christine, hi, I'm Christine. Speaker 2 00:04:40 I am Ojibwe and Algonquin was family from <inaudible> back and kindergarten ZB. I was born and raised in Ottawa, spent a little bit time away about from when I was 25 to 30, but back in Ottawa and yeah, just living and surviving and trying to thrive relatable Speaker 1 00:05:02 Clarissa. Speaker 2 00:05:05 I am only <inaudible> my spirit meme. Well, I have to now <inaudible> uh, indigena cause I'm from <inaudible> first nation, but I was, I was born in Fort Francis, raised in thunder Bay and Winnipeg, and then my mom and I moved to Fort Frances for a decade and a half maybe. And I've been in Ottawa for school, our Carlton for, Oh my God, like six or seven years now, which is really wild to me. Yeah. I'm taking a bit of a break from school. We're going to go back and finish my degree, but yeah, just I'm living in Napoleon beading and chilling with my dog and my partner Speaker 1 00:05:44 Sounds pretty awesome for a baby. Love is so important. Speaker 2 00:05:48 Oh my God. It's saved me from whatever this is. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:05:56 It's so fascinating. But also not so surprising that like, you know, Carlton acts as the sort of meeting point for so many of us. In fact, that was my entry point to how I met each of you at some point or another over the last, like what? Five, six, seven years. Yeah. Speaker 2 00:06:13 Yeah. Carlton was great for meeting people. Lots of events miss them. Oh my God. Speaker 1 00:06:20 Yeah. Yeah. You know, lots of people type it's. Speaker 2 00:06:25 Yeah. Speaker 1 00:06:29 I think my deep hope is once, you know, whatever the normal is, post pandemic or in pandemic is just to throw like hugging parties. Like I miss hugging people. Speaker 2 00:06:47 That's so true. So true in Seattle Washington. And there was a person standing on the corner, outside a Starbucks with a sign that said free hugs. And I don't think I've had a more exciting afternoon since noon on that corner shopping and then going out for my free hug and then shopping and then going. Speaker 1 00:07:23 Um, so each of you is signaled your entry point into Ottawa to go back to some of those earlier years of like figuring out community and figuring out like where in the landscape you make family, like, what did that look like for each of you? Maybe I ask the Risa to go first if you're comfortable. Speaker 2 00:07:42 Sure. Yeah. Um, I moved here, my good friend in high school Mallory. She came to Carlton a year before I did. I went back to high school for the victory lap, which is what they call it. And yeah, I really didn't know where I fit, I guess, which program I should be in, especially looking all across Canada. I wanted something to kind of harness my, my music and what I wanted to do and room was really the only place I found that I had a little bit more freedom. So, um, yeah, I moved here knowing like one person and we, and we lived together, which was super, super important, I guess for the first few years. Um, and in my program, far as I can remember for about four years, I was the only native person that I guess outwardly identifying as native and, you know, it's something I sing about in my music, you know, my identity and just a lot of different things about, I guess, indigenous life and well specifically my, you know, life as a, you know, a jewelry person. Speaker 2 00:08:47 Um, yeah, it was, it was pretty isolating cause I never really knew what people were thinking or how they felt about me. And you know, it's not like I received any harassment or discrimination really, but you know, I would bring things up. Like I remember when walking with our sisters was that QA, like I mentioned in my class that was mandatory for everyone. You know, go, go see this, this show, this installation, this, you know, what you, you know, like what do you even call it? It's so powerful. And like, this is an issue that's really being highlighted in the news and just, you know, across Canada right now, like this is really important. Um, and I, I think a couple people went, but it was just like radio silence when I brought that up in class. So it was just, you know, as much as I felt at home in, in the music program, being a musician, it was very hard for me to connect until I started hanging out. Speaker 2 00:09:51 No joke went on a little bit more until I started taking indigenous studies classes for my minor. So that definitely helped to create some community. And, you know, there was, you know, definitely like beating little workshops in <inaudible> and, you know, I would take part in stuff. Um, yeah. So I think, you know, really spending more time in Ojai and, uh, taking those indigenous studies classes really helped to expand and feel more at home in Ottawa, especially because a lot of students were, you know, like me and trying to find their way they weren't from here. And didn't really know a lot of people. So yeah, I'm really grateful for just that whole time. It was around like 2017 through like 2018 where I really found, you know, my crew and just like my vibe, like it was, it was, yeah, I remember it fondly. Speaker 1 00:10:44 Lisa, can you tell us a little bit more about like, what would Jake went honest or audience members who might not know? Speaker 2 00:10:50 Right. So <inaudible> is the indigenous students center, is that, am I saying that correctly, indigenous students that are, um, at Carlton university, um, there are, there's a lot that goes on there. Um, there are service people there to help you and guide you and that's, well, I don't actually Benny, I'm not entirely sure when we first first met, but I remember you being very friendly in there and yeah, just, just feeling very, very comfortable and you know, not so kind of uptight and, you know, professional. It was just like, okay, this is a place where I can come and I can stick my tongue out when I talk or I can point with my lips and I can also study, I don't have to, I don't have to hide, you know, I do. I am. So, um, yeah. And there's like lots of workshops, like there's so much programming that goes on every single week and there are computers Speaker 3 00:11:54 And, you know, a little like study rooms. So yeah, there's a lot that goes on there. Speaker 1 00:12:00 Awesome. Thank you for explaining that. Um, yeah, I think it access such a community hub inside Carlton where it can also feel at times like alienating. You don't necessarily know how to broker in relationship, especially if you don't have an already established friend baseline. Speaker 3 00:12:18 Yeah. When I had said earlier that Carlton was a great place to meet people. I didn't mean like in classes because that was super hard for me, but that was definitely where I met most of the community and yeah, I really felt at home and just like Clarissa said, like felt comfortable being myself and just felt immediately welcomed Ben. He was a huge part of that for sure. Speaker 1 00:12:44 Any adoration time. Do you want to tell us, Speaker 3 00:12:50 Oh, Speaker 1 00:12:58 Do you want to tell us a little bit Benny about how you come to be central in logic went on and like, uh, support for a lot of indigenous folks? Speaker 3 00:13:09 Sure. So I guess I could kind of start at the beginning for me anyway. Um, so I spent a lot of my growing up outside of my traditional territory. So the, my family's traditional territory was really in the Winnipeg area and the compel Valley area in Saskatchewan. So territories that are shared, uh, with the Cree and the Soto. My mom joined the military when she was very young to escape violence in the home. And so I spent a lot of my time growing up, uh, away from my extended family, which is kind of an unusual experience for the rest of my relatives, but what has really sustained me in my life is forming strong community connections and in the urban spaces that I've been living in. And the first time I came to Ottawa was 20 years ago when I had been accepted as a student to come to Carlton university. Speaker 3 00:14:10 And when my parents dropped me off about a week before classes started, it was the first time that anybody in my family had ever stepped onto a post-secondary institution campus of any kind. I was the first person in my family to go to college or to go to university terrifying experience because there was nobody that I felt I could turn to, to ask all kinds of questions about what it was I should be expecting and what I was about to experience. The thing that really helped me to navigate university was the community that I found in the indigenous student center, which at the time was this really small little room tucked away in the tunnels. And it was this crowded little space that could fit about, Oh, I think about 10 people. And we all knew each other very, very well. In fact, we all still know each other really, really well. Speaker 3 00:15:17 The people who were students at that time and being a student at Carlton and having access to the support that I found in that student center, I think gave me a real appreciation for, um, how important that kind of community is. And then I went on and I was a student at two other universities, um, before I went out into the work world and I somehow made my way back to Carlton and I am now in this position where my role is to support indigenous students. And I truly feel passionate in the work that I do around advocating for students and ensuring that students have the support that they need, because I know how deeply alienating and experience it can be trying to be successful in an environment that is not built for us was never intended to meet our needs as indigenous people. So I just think the community that we've been able to build and foster and nurture through spaces like COJIP went on, are so important and I've had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people from all over the place. Speaker 1 00:16:39 It's, it's both frustrating when the space isn't already there, but then when you do create this space where folks are able to access and like, know that they're not alone, that they're not in this process of like having to build community, but also feel grounded enough to pursue educational, like pathways. Like it's school is hard universities make it that much more like difficult and solitary of a process. And then when there's, when there isn't necessarily like a ready-made community to enter into, it can be so, so lonely. Um, and I think it's magical, incredibly important work. I didn't know about this tunnel room at Carlton Benny. Speaker 3 00:17:24 No, well actually, no, I did. I don't know where in the tunnels it was, but I remember hearing about this little room on the side of the tunnels and I actually know, I do know where it is. It's up that big Hill in the tunnels, right? Yeah. Somebody pointed it out to me and I was like, wow, we are so lucky. I was going to say, because school is so hard. I learned and yeah, like my regular classes, which Speaker 2 00:17:50 Were really demanding, but especially in my indigenous studies classes and just, you know, like learning more about my identity and reflecting and things. Um, I went through some really tough classes and, you know, there, it was like, okay, I'm not going to go cry in the bathroom. And Oh, Jake went on was frankly a place where I could just go there and cry. Like there were so many throughout the years, there are so many instances where I was able to go on this mudroom and, you know, lock the door because I'm smudging and balling like ugly crying, because it was like, you know, I don't feel like I can speak up in class if I felt like if I brought, you know, this issue to my professors, it would be dismissed. And, you know, I was lucky to, you know, be able to do that and, you know, be responded to well. But, you know, that was like my first point of contact when things went downhill. When I went through, you know, my breakups and just, you know, family stuff, it really was a safe place to run to. You know, it was so important for me to have that space, even when I was living on campus, I would, I would run there. You know, I was, Speaker 1 00:19:04 Yeah. I think like if, when we're thinking about the knowledges that we gain access to through educational institutions, it often comes at the price of like having to hear, listen, and then be retraumatized about histories of like violence towards indigenous black POC communities. Right. So much of the learning is predicated on, I'm going to call it trauma porn, but like, it feels like, you know, who is that content really engineered towards how and how does it make space for softness joy and like celebrating also like accomplishments in lives and not coming always from the point of deficit. And I think like when we don't have the opportunity to find that safe Haven to go and actually be nurtured and taken care of which the sort of like dominant educational institutions don't really produce an environment. That's, Speaker 3 00:19:56 That's the thing about that's so special about <inaudible> too, is that there's so much laughter it's one of those places and this is always the way it is, where you get indigenous people gathering together. There is comfort in knowing that as diverse as we are, and as diverse as our experiences are our experiences who a great extent are still shared. And so there's safety in that we can rely on that, that we understand one another in a way that other people don't understand us. And we need more of those places to come together and be able to relax and enjoy each other's company, knowing that we can just be ourselves. And that's everybody students, staff, Apple, D community member, elder youth, everybody needs Speaker 2 00:20:48 Spaces like that. Speaker 1 00:20:51 You know, Benny, one of my earliest memory of you is, um, we were at some event and I look over and you're sitting at a table and, um, you're beating, um, there was, it was a room full of people, uh, and uh, some sort of a panel happening. And I really didn't focus on any of that. I was too busy looking at you, beading. Um, uh, uh, and I just, I find that moment so beautiful and also like such a powerful intervention because amongst all the bureaucratic processes at play, there's Benny and full-on taking over the table with all of the things and you're just like, not even looking at anything, you're just, Speaker 2 00:21:34 I mean, it could be a very intentional thing. I used to go to a lot of government consultations on behalf of my community. And there were certain meetings that I would absolutely pack my bead work very intentionally for many different purposes, you know, whether it was to kind of center myself in conversations that I knew would be ultimately very difficult. Yeah. And other ways that probably, yeah, Speaker 1 00:21:58 I think that's a really great entry point to talk about each of your practices. Like you've all cultivated, very beautiful, strong multi-pronged. I mean, Larissa, you saying, you tell stories, you write music, you, you know, um, like I would really love for each of you to sort of share with us in whatever degree, how you came to, to practice, whether it be bead work. And then, um, Christine, perhaps you could talk a bit more about quillwork. Um, but Laura said you want to go first? Speaker 2 00:22:33 Sure. So I guess this kind of starts with my mom because she has been beating for, well, she's not so much active anymore, but she's always been the artistic type. She was the one that, you know, inspired me to start playing music and guitar and singing and writings, very artistic person. So she's definitely been, um, a focal point. Um, yeah, so she's definitely, you know, somebody that, you know, encouraged me and I've always admired her for it. I first learned actually how to bead from my cousin, <inaudible> out of thunder Bay, she moved to Fort Francis and I went over to visit out of her place. And she was like, yeah, let's just like, learn how to, I'm going to teach you how to do some beading. And she drew up a little floral design and she gave me some beads and it kept me busy for quite a few months. I still have that piece actually. Um, and it's yeah, it's has really, is honestly amazing to see how far I have come. I that, so that was, I was probably about 14. So like 2007 or eight or something, something around there. And then in, in my second year, my mom drove me from Fort Frances to Ottawa and we stopped. I don't remember exactly where it is on the way, but we stopped at IB. It's a big bead store, um, on the way to Ottawa. Speaker 2 00:24:01 Yeah. Yeah. Huge love it. Yes. Oh, it's like a playground in there. It's amazing. Do you buy all the things? I'm like, I saved up for nothing, cause I'm going to go back to no money. That's where I got all of my like starting things. Like, you know, I got all like the beating felt and you know, good scissors and that earring fixings and just, yeah. So, so many beads because there's so many different kinds in there and yeah, it was so exciting. It actually, I flew home and brought my beating with me and all my beads ended up in one big, like bead soup. Cause I bought the wrong containers. What was like truly horrible, but I didn't let it stop me. I think I still have those at home and they're still unsorted, but my mom, you know, she helped me out with that. Speaker 2 00:24:54 Yeah. And that was like my first time living alone in, well, not alone in an apartment. I was living with my best friend Mallory and yeah. I just like learned how to start making earrings more of the embroidery style eating. Um, and then I started working for the indigenous mentors, um, indigenous high school mentors with Carlton. And I was like, well, I mean, I don't really remember a whole lot on how to do it, but like, I'm sure that we can, you know, figure, figure out some little projects. And I brought, you know, beating into my little practice with those, those students. And it was a lot of fun. We did like Yu-Gi-Oh medallions and whatever they wanted. Like it was a lot. And then I started my beating Instagram May, 2018, I think June, 2018. And yeah, it's, it's just grown from there and I've just learned so many, so many different things to, you know, grow and expand my practice. Speaker 1 00:25:55 Laura said, do you want to share your Insta handle for your baby? Speaker 2 00:25:59 Uh, it's been at big <inaudible> beadwork, B a N G I S H I M O N beadwork. Speaker 1 00:26:12 I just felt like I just like made you take a test. Speaker 2 00:26:15 It means sunset or like it is sunset just refers to sunset and like I'm, I'm just so in love with sunset. So I was like, yeah, this, this is a good reflection of myself. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:26:34 Thank you, Christine. Can you share a bit about, like, I know you specifically work with like quillwork can tell me a little bit about the difference between quillwork and bead and like why it's important to distinguish them. Speaker 4 00:26:49 Sure. Well, first of all, bead work is so hard. I don't know how you ladies do it at all, but I tried learning so many years ago because I was like, Oh, I want a hobby. And I want to learn and I want to take part in my culture and I want to, you know, like I see everyone else doing this craft. It should be easy. It should be a great creative outlet. Anyways. It was the most frustrating thing on this planet. I snapped so many beading needles. I don't even know how, um, anyways, the person who was teaching me, Ashley she's from Keegan DB. And she was just like, I don't know how you're doing this, but it's just like, it's impossible watching you. So I'm pretty sure you're just not going to be a beater. So anyways, I retired from that sport for a very long time. Speaker 4 00:27:36 I tried to pick it up again when I was working at a <inaudible> as the, um, I was kind of like the student's welcomer and, um, anyways, but, uh, I led an eating group and my skills definitely improved. I wasn't snapping needles anymore, but I still wasn't good. I think if I had practiced it, it would be, you know, I'd be a bit better, but it's never been something that I have the patience for. So I do commend everyone who is really good at beating, or even just wants to do it at all. Like it's a beautiful expression of our culture and you can do so many amazing things with it. Quillwork is obviously different. It uses porcupine quills instead of beads and birchbark instead of leather, I'd say so it's, I guess you're stitching the quills into the Birch bark, which is kind of similar to beadwork cause they're stitching the bead into leather or whatever backing you're using. Speaker 4 00:28:39 So there are similarities for sure, but I find the whole process just a little bit more calming for me when I do quillwork. I mean, way more calming. Otherwise I wouldn't be doing it. And uh, just the process of, I guess, gathering, uh, the supplies and making this applies as much different because I can't, I think I can probably go to IB or some store that sells quills, but I haven't found a place that sells them in the quantity I need or the size that I need or the color that I even want. And I also find that whole process very fun to do. So taking the plucking, the quills, cleaning the quills, dyeing them, um, yeah, it's just, uh, you really need to start from scratch with quillwork and um, the, the supplies aren't super readily available, they all come from nature. So yeah, it's, it is a different process and it, for me anyways, I've found quillwork to be definitely more enjoyable beating, not to say that I won't try beating again, but Speaker 1 00:29:46 I have a couple more questions for you, Christine. Um, as you're talking about like gathering supplies, are they particular seasons where like that's the opportune time to, to source all the material? Speaker 4 00:29:58 Yeah. My grandma, um, told me that around the time when the strawberries are out, that's when you gather birchbark that's when you gather Sweetgrass, summertime is not great. Apparently for gathering the porcupine quills, cause the quills can be a little bit more oily. So you want to get them when it's not hot weather, but I know people who gather a birchbark in the winter, I think it's used for etching. It probably has maybe a, um, I'm actually not sure why they gathered in the winter to do that particular artwork as opposed to the summer. But so that's what I've been taught in noises is gathering probably around June ish is when the strawberries are out Speaker 1 00:30:38 And you learn how to use quills and produce quillwork like early on in childhood. And then it's something that you sort of kept up or what did that process look like? Speaker 4 00:30:46 No, I, um, I, uh, I come from my grandma actually, she, she was the one who started probably when she was a child and she did it throughout her life. It was a great way for her to, uh, bring in income, I guess like she was raising 13 kids doesn't necessarily have time for a job. So she, she definitely used that. Um, so old, beautiful boxes over the years. So many of them. And then when I was about, I'd say it was around 27, my mom was struggling with cancer and I was struggling with chronic back pain. So we had, or I'd moved back to Sagamore on and off throughout a couple of years. Um, just to help, I guess, to help each other out, you know, to have that care for one another. And I needed a hobby and I needed something to do and I wanted to learn and I knew my grandma, she was getting older and she didn't produce as many boxes, but it was a skill that she was willing to teach me and probably pretty excited about it. Speaker 4 00:31:42 So I asked her to teach me and she quickly put together this box. I wish I could show you it's in the other room and then gave it to me. It was like, there, there you go. And I was like, Oh, okay. Like where's my lesson. And that was my lesson. Basically. She was like, so if I like examine the box and like, I go back to her house and spend time with her and, you know, ask her questions and, um, slowly figured out how she created this, this beautiful box that has a daffodil on it. Yeah. That summer I put together kits that I sold at the Wiki powwow. So other people could learn how to make a cool box, but it didn't sell so well, but I don't think my advertising was very good, but yeah. Uh, after that, yeah, like the time and effort that my mom, my grandma and I put into it was a beautiful time. Speaker 4 00:32:39 I really, really enjoyed that time with them learning and, um, uh, like learning a new skill and learning. They were just like a wealth of knowledge and they were just like spewing things at me. Like I wish I was more like spongier to, you know, have retained more of it. But, uh, I, I kind of put that to rest and I pursued other things and only got back to quillwork uh, about a year and a half ago when my mom passed away, I had found all of the stuff that we had made together. Um, all of the birchbark that we had cut together, all of the quills that we had cleaned and died together. And I was just like, why am I not doing anything with this? I need to, I need to start again. So I did one piece just to see if I like still enjoy doing it. Speaker 4 00:33:25 And I, and I was like, wow, I don't know why I ever stopped doing this. It is the most calming activity. It just gives me so much fulfillment and so much joy. So after that, I dedicated my next 13 to 15 pieces, uh, to my mom and put together an art show in honor of her memory and beautiful. A couple of my friends, a lot of my family bought the pieces so I can still see them and I can still remember her and all the wonderful lessons and all the time we spent together through the cool work I did. Thank you so much, Christina. Speaker 1 00:34:00 It's so incredible and, and important to think about how objects themselves become carriers of so many stories. And when we're thinking about like producing stories that are close to us, but also resonate with others, like, yeah, it's phenomenal. I'm really excited to see what your next show is going to look like. Do you want to share your handle, Christine? Um, on Instagram where you show people the process and also pieces of work that are up. Speaker 4 00:34:28 Yeah, for sure. It's a Christine dot quills. Awesome. Speaker 1 00:34:34 Yeah. Benny, let's go back. Speaker 4 00:34:38 I don't know how to handle any of these fancy social things online internet tick talk, noticeable, invisible online. So the question you were asking is how I came to be. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:35:02 And like, you know, what does beating mean for you? Like what is, what kind of knowledge are you linking yourself to what genealogies are you tethered to as you produce the works that you have and that you are, Speaker 4 00:35:15 Oh my goodness. Speeding means the world to me, you know, when I first started beating, I approached it in a way that was, I think really unhealthy. I approached it in the way that up until that point, I had approached everything in my life, which was really as a means to an end. I saw these, you know, matey, people are known historically Speaker 3 00:35:38 As being pretty fancy. We adorn ourselves historically in floral beadwork. We're known by many groups as the flower bead work pupil because we, we loved to adorn ourselves in this floor beadwork. And I thought it would be pretty fantastic to be able to have some of these pieces for myself. So I decided that I would pick up beading and it would kind of be a one, two, three type thing. And I asked people that you had to be, to teach me. And I just had such a rough go of it in the sense that I was so hypercritical of everything that I did, I ended up never finishing anything and I've put it down for a number of years. And then it was in 2012 when I was going through an extremely difficult time in my life when beadwork finally came back into my life in a different way. Speaker 3 00:36:34 And, um, really took on a whole new meaning for me in 2012, I guess you could say that I was in an incredibly dark place. And I began a program, uh, to support my mental health <inaudible> Aboriginal health center in Ottawa. And one of the programs that I was a part of at the time was a bead work circle that took place every Friday night. And the purpose of the circle, the way it functioned was we would bring in a project that we were working on and we would engage in a sharing circle. And the, the point of having a project to work on was so that while the Eagle feather was going around, people were more comfortable being emotionally vulnerable and sharing the parts of their story that they felt they needed to share at that time. And so I started that program and decided on the first night of the program that I was going to go bigger, go home. Speaker 3 00:37:46 I decided I was going to start a vest. I had never booted anything, large, anything in my life before, but I decided as I always do that, I wanted to go big or go home. So I decided that, um, I would be this grand floral vest and the people in the program told me that if I approached it the way I had approached it in the past, I would likely give up and that I needed to focus on the process. And a few weeks after I began the program, I flew to, uh, back to Batoche dates in Batoche, Saskatchewan, which is a meaty festival where matey from all, all over the Homeland come together for cultural activities. And I was sitting at a picnic table with some meaty youth when Greg Scofield and Sherry Farrell Rosette came and sat at the picnic table. And Greg Scofield is a matey poet and a very, very well known meaty beater. Speaker 3 00:38:48 And he sat down and he saw me kind of fumbling with one of these little bead work kits that had been given. And he asked me what I was doing. And I said, well, I'm, I'm beading. And, uh, he said, well, no, but I mean, what are you doing with your thumb? And I said, well, I don't know, I'm beading bead without knowing what you're doing with your thumb. And I was like, I felt like it was a riddle. He ended up giving me and everybody at the table, this lesson that lasted for about 30 minutes on how you utilize your thumb and how you possibly bead without knowing how to utilize your thumb, or you're essentially just a monkey with a string trying that information. I brought back with me to this program at Wabano and I really kind of immersed myself in the project of this vest. Speaker 3 00:39:48 And I started to, um, ask folks, um, in my community who were well known for beating what some of the teachings were about, you know, the process of creating pieces of bead work and came to understand that, that there it's a, it's a deeply spiritual process. And, you know, the way that I was taught each piece that you create carries spirit and I was taught, you know, never engage in the process of making bead work when you're not in a good space when you're not in a healthy state of mind. That is if you ever gift that item to somebody, that item carries that energy that you imparted to it while you were making it. I take the process of creating bead work very seriously. And I also, over the course of the two years that it took me to bead that vest, which is the vest that I wear at Carlton. Speaker 3 00:40:49 If you ever see me wear that best at Carleton, that vest carries that story of my healing journey from, from darkness to light, from, from illness to wellness. By the time I was finished, that guessed I was healthy. Again, it took me that long. It took me, it took me about two years to find my way out of that darkness. But part of that process was completing that vest and recognizing that, you know, just like if you've ever seen me to bead work, one of the things that is distinctive about me to bead work is the white vines. You'll see the vines that connect the flowers. Some people call them do hickies. Some people call them most tracks, because if you look at the way, uh, the sticks come off, the vine, it kind of looks like, uh, the way my sleeve tracks when they run between the Bush. Speaker 3 00:41:38 But when I look at that white line, it reminds me of a life, your life path. When you come in the Eastern doorway and you leave through the Western doorway and you're walking, you're walking along that life path, you, you take all kinds of, you know, you, you leave that center path again and again and again, you know, but you always come back. You always make your way back to that, that you're supposed to be following. And I think there's, there's so many teachings that are held within one piece of beadwork from the very, from the very first bead that you set down at the center of a flower, I was taught that that bead represents spirit. If you look at the beads that come directly around that bead there's seven there's N there's room for exactly seven beads after that initial bead and those seven beads represent those seven sacred teachings. I, once I once called them the grandfather teachings, and I got in a lot of trouble for doing that, I was, what did you think the grandmothers were doing? Just hanging out while the grandfathers were sitting around, coming up with all these great teachings, the grandmothers chillers, they said, don't come around here and talk about the teachings and teachings and the grandmothers own half of that circle. So Speaker 4 00:42:57 Those are Speaker 3 00:43:00 The teachings belong to everybody, but, and that spirit bead, you know, we're taught that when we, when we create bead work, we have to include that spirit beat. And the teaching behind that spirit bead is that we have to be humble and walk with humility because nothing is perfect. There's not one of us is perfect and creation is imperfect and UT is imperfection. And if you get caught up in the minutia and the small details of things, you'll never reach the completion or the fruition of a project, and you'll never get to stand back and look at all that you've accomplished. Speaker 4 00:43:38 I love that, Speaker 2 00:43:41 But I don't have a hashtag. You don't need one. Speaker 4 00:43:53 I was just gonna say, that's what I w what Benny had said about there's beauty in imperfection. That's one thing I really have enjoyed about quillwork is there's so much imperfection in the bark itself. Like it's, it's a living thing. And so you can't really, you can't really change. What's what it's gonna, what it's gonna look like. And sometimes when you do a design, you have to, you have to change it. You have to alter it to get around. There's little like lines in the bark. You can't put your Quill on those. Otherwise it'll split the whole thing. So it's, um, it's kind of an art that is, is, uh, I really embrace the imperfections that come out of it. And it's not always, it doesn't always go to plan and I do have to make adjustments along the way. And, uh, yeah, anyways, and it's a learning process. Every time I come up with something and it's like, maybe not the way I saw it coming out, or as I'm doing it, I'm like, Ooh, this is not as beautiful as I thought it was going to be. Once it's all done. I love it. I love, I love seeing my mistakes. I love seeing the imperfections in the verge brick. I love, I love all of that. So I do believe in that. Speaker 2 00:45:10 Yeah. I think that's beautiful. And like, frankly, I did actually learn something about myself through your teaching. So thank you for that. For that. That's, that's beautiful. Um, uh, I do want to just like talk about something and maybe it could be a segue into something else, maybe whatever, um, whatever, wherever the conversation leads us, but it's not really like a rebuttal to what Benny is saying, but it's more of something that just, I thought of, um, and, and feelings that came up just from seeing from seeing means on like Instagram and Facebook. So I guess I'll start with the meme. Somebody who I look up very, very much to in, I guess, the indigenous community in Ontario, I'll say, um, you know, and who is also like kind of a queer mentor for me posted this meme that said, it's that kid pointing in like a yellow shirt pointing at something. Speaker 2 00:46:10 And it's like, you know what, I'm going to say it like, and the meme was like, you know, beating around a little gem with like two lines of beadwork or whatever, like making like really like beginner style earrings or something is like, is not bead work or something like that. And it just like, kind of highlighted the fact that this person didn't believe that, you know, really beginner bead work, you know, you see a lot of these like, uh, accounts on Instagram that, you know, they buy what are called cabbage. Sean's like centers, you know, like glue it down on the felt. And you do like maybe a couple lines of beadwork, a little bit of banding, and then you put an earring fixing on it. Um, that's that style's really, really popular. And, you know, it's, it's something that I see a lot of beginner bead workers start out with, but I got, Oh my God, I got so angry at this person because it was like, I, I really thought you felt differently about, you know, that because not everyone comes to, you know, when in their beating journey, not everyone has access to say these really beautiful and powerful teachings that Benny carries, you know, not everyone has access to say, go to <inaudible> or the friendship center in their community, or even their relatives. Speaker 2 00:47:31 You know, there's so many kids in care that, you know, age out and they don't know, you know what I mean? Like, there's just, there's so many different stories and pathways that, you know, indigenous youth have, and, you know, even beaters say who start later on in life, you know, and it's just, these things are accessible. You can look them up. There's millions, maybe not millions, but there's so many tutorials on YouTube, like Pinterest and like bead worker groups on Facebook and things like that. It's like, not everyone has access to this, just like not everyone has access to their culture or their teachings or ceremony. And, you know, it just, it really hurt me because it's like, they're trying, you know, I was really fortunate to learn my first time, um, you know, with, with the native, but with my cousin, you know, I grew up with her, you know, her mom is my auntie, even though we're not technically related. Um, you know, and like, she taught me how to beat a floral and that was really important. But later on, I'm like, okay, well, I don't, I don't have her on Facebook. She doesn't have Facebook. What am I going to do? And I looked on Pinterest and I learned how to do like payoti and just like the simple stitching of an earring. And it was just like, you know, I was, I was insulted by that mean, Speaker 3 00:48:48 Well, I think I just want to say that I want to respond to that too, because I, one of the things that I wanted to share, and one of the things that I was thinking about while I was listening to both of you share is I was reflecting on when I, when I first began to be quite a bit, I'm a very slow beader. I am. I mean, I'm, maybe I'm a remedial beader, but I'm very, very slow. And, um, some people can whip stuff up. It takes me so long. Um, I tacked down every beat. It's a very intentional process, but I remember the anger I used to feel when people would see what I had beaded and the first question. And it would often come from non-indigenous people who would see my bead work. The question they would ask is, did you learn that from your mother? Speaker 3 00:49:42 The, I would get so angry at that question. And it took me a long time to understand why I would immediately become so enraged at that question. And I now know it's because of this assumption, this, this lack of understanding that my mom and my grandmother didn't have the luxury of being able to pass down our traditions and being able to transmit that culture because they were busy surviving the ensuring that, you know, I wasn't taken from her arms at the St Boniface hospital when the social workers were sent in, they were busy, all of these other Speaker 4 00:50:28 Things, and they couldn't, they didn't, they weren't able to do that. And it would make me so mad and I would feel so ashamed that I hadn't learned he'd work, that, that hadn't been passed down from generation to generation in my family, as it had people's family. And I would be angry that people didn't realize that that was a presumptive question to ask. And I think that points to what you're putting your finger on the Larissa. It is still a privilege for many, for many of us in indigenous communities to know where we come from, who have heard our creation stories to attend ceremony, to be comfortable and accepted, and part of a community to all of these different pieces are still pro that's still privileged. We're still, we're still fighting for the day when that is not a privilege anymore, when that is just normal. Speaker 2 00:51:31 Yeah. A hundred percent. And it's like, you know, just that even just that process, like I'm a huge believer in blood memory and that, you know, we carry like, it's like, I don't speak for maybe not a lack of way, but like, I don't speak a lot of Ojibwe, but I can, I can read through a whole page out loud, you know, not knowing what I'm saying, but it's like, you know, it's there. So even just the act of, you know, just like tacking down the beads or just playing with them or whatever, I believe that you're still connecting, like to your ancestors and, you know, to your culture, like, you're still enacting something that connects you to who you are. And you know what, I guess you're trying to reach out to something. And it just, yeah, just like thinking of that meme, it was just like that that's like really hurtful. And it's like, you know, yeah. It's just, it's absolutely a privilege and yeah. Cause like I, you know, my mother, you know, she was a bead worker and, you know, even the thing, like it came, came to her in dreams. Like she saw these really beautiful green moccasins that she beated. And it's not that she didn't teach me, but Speaker 4 00:52:35 It was like, it was, we never really just Speaker 2 00:52:38 Like sat down over a prolonged period of time or whatever it was just like, yeah. I, I guess what I'm trying to say is like, ah, I really, yeah. Speaker 4 00:52:47 I agree with what you're saying. I was just going to say, I totally agree too. Like in terms of things being passed down through your mom, my mom was a self-proclaimed non artistic person at all. She would always say that she was like, no, I don't have an artistic bone in my body. And I would look at her and be like, you make quilts, you, you do all these artistic things. Like how is that not artistic, but I think, yeah, like in terms of other priorities that she had in her life, first arrival, you know, like coming onto us, starting a life here, getting a job, raising a child, like it's not like she had a ton of time to focus on other art forms or even that desire, like maybe desire wasn't there because it wasn't something that was like fully encouraged to. So the fact that I get to practice this quillwork and, uh, that my grandma was still around to teach me, um, when I was finally interested, even though she's 92 now, you know, like that, I'm just so happy to have been able to, to have gotten that, um, time to spend with them learning. Speaker 4 00:53:50 And, um, yeah, it is a privilege for sure. Speaker 1 00:53:54 Let me say you bring up such a beautiful and important point, right? Like the assumptions and the, the sort of, uh, erasure where knowledge like through the lineage also gets disrupted because of a series of external factors. Right? So survival drives, but also the stories that like each of you are sharing, they themselves are these beautiful pockets of archives that exist in the intangible, but inform how you navigate and negotiate your own identities and your own sort of linkages to community and to self. Right. And I think that's so, so like important and necessary to center, like where I think not in more like normative or mainstream conversations, around stories, stories become something that are like on a hierarchy as a stories themselves aren't living knowledge. And so that like when you bridge in practice to produce something that is also a continuity of living knowledge coming out, just in a different form. Yeah. I want to thank each and every one of you for spending some time with me today and just diving right on deep and sharing your process practice. And I'm really excited to like, see, I know Benny you're, you're working on a new piece, um, that like, hopefully we'll get to see the grand reveal of, um, you know, um, looking forward to each and every one of your, uh, like projects that are up and coming. And, um, yeah. Thank you so much. Like this has been such a joy. Um, yeah, I deeply appreciate it. Speaker 4 00:55:33 Thank you. It was great to see everyone's faces fine. Speaker 1 00:55:48 Yeah. To be continued. I still am. Crop symposium podcast is produced by Finn, Sam Tran and Ana Hawk. Special. Thanks to today's speakers. Benny Michaux, Christine <inaudible> and Larissa <inaudible>. The music is composed by Zen man on Pixabay. The podcast is part of Carleton university art galleries, virtual stone Croft symposium. The symposium is organized in conjunction with the exhibition to be continued troubling. The queer archive, curated by Ana Shah Hawk and Carra Tierney and presented as the gallery, September, 2020 to May, 2021, the exhibition and podcast expands conversations around local queer histories and futures. We're grateful for the support of Carleton university, the County council for the arts, the Ontario arts council and the stolen crop foundation for the arts, the stolen crop foundation promotes education and the visual arts and fosters the public's appreciation of the visual arts. Find out more about the stolen crops symposium by visiting <inaudible> dot CA that's C U a g.com. Speaker 0 00:56:54 Yes.

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September 24, 2020 00:34:38
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