All Our Relations: Traditional Arts in the Faculty of Native Studies

Dorothy Thunder, Lana Sinclair, Beverly Findlay and Janet Delorme highlight their creative work in a presentation for Congress 2021.

09 June 2021

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For Congress 2021, the Faculty of Native Studies’ Cree instructor Dorothy Thunder and administrative staff Lana Sinclair, Beverly Findlay and Janet Delorme highlighted their creative work. Their presentation, “All Our Relations: Traditional Arts in the Faculty of Native Studies”, showcases the importance of traditional arts within Native Studies.

Bringing traditional arts to the University of Alberta campus has always been key for the Faculty of Native Studies. In recent years, the Faculty has provided a number of opportunities for students, alumni, staff and faculty to access traditional teachings, including bringing Jeanine Krauchi to teach traditional Métis beading, MJ Belcourt to teach porcupine quilling, Elaine Alexie silverberry workshops, and Roxanne Tootoosis and Pauline Paulson ribbon skirt making. 

Having access to these arts is not just about learning their technical aspects. The teachings connect learners with cultural knowledge and sacred teachings that otherwise would not be accessible within an institution like the UofA. 

In acknowledgement of Congress 2021’s theme, “Northern Relations,” Sinclair created moose hair tufted brooches, an acknowledgement of people of the North. Findlay beaded a design from the canvas of the first tipi ever erected outside the Faculty of Native Studies. The tipi was a gift to the faculty from Thunder’s mother following a New Zealand visit that led to a memorandum of understanding being signed between the Faculty of Native Studies and the University of Otago. “We are their Northern Relations,” explained Findlay. Thunder beaded card holders to be given as gifts to visitors and guests of the Faculty of Native Studies, gifting being an important part of the faculty. Delorme’s artwork is moosehide cut to the shape of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut with beaded animals: the polar bear, eagle, arctic fox, reindeer, and seal. The piece is a holistic take on community and Northern relations, incorporating sky and spirit, which brings in Indigenous astrological signs and the colours from the medicine wheel.

Thunder, Sinclair, Findlay and Delorme are joined in their presentation by Elder Francis Whiskeyjack, also an artist, who will be providing a blessing. Whiskeyjack, a respected Elder from Saddle Lake First Nation, was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Alberta in 2019 in recognition of his years of leadership and community service.

Watch their presentation to learn more and see their work at Congress 2021 until June 30.