By Lindy Kinoshameg, YPT Community Engagement Facilitator
About INDIGENizeUS: During YPT’s 2017/18 Season, the entire staff participated in INDIGENizeUS workshops created by Lindy Kinoshameg and Leslie McCue that focused on Indigenous relations, raising cultural awareness, and exploring individual reconciliation. Learning began around the seven sacred teachings of Respect, Bravery, Humility, Love, Honesty, Wisdom, and Truth. The intention behind the workshop series is to hear stories from Indigenous artists/elders and participate in traditions first-hand. It is our hope that programs such as this will begin building a bridge between nations and help take the first steps toward reconciliation. To read INDIGENizeUS – Part 1, click here.
Arts and crafts are commonly associated with kids, and so it is brushed off as an activity that is not important for the ordinary adult. However, through my teachings I have learned that art is how we tell our stories, and those stories are our traditions, sacred to us and part of our being.
Everything that is put into the creation of something resonates with that item forever; from visiting family or friends and sharing stories and laughter, to the respectful manner with which we treat the animal hide we use, or the careful choice of bead color. It is this good energy that is put into our creations.
This idea formed the basis of our “Humility” workshop. Participants created their own medicine pouches, made of deer hide, with individual handmade beaded designs. Inside each pouch, staff members placed one or all of the sacred medicines: Tobacco, Sage, Cedar, and Sweetgrass. Some have decided to keep their pouches close to them at their desk, maybe as a reminder of the workshops, and some have taken it home, maybe to a special place.
Our facilitator for “Humility” was Rosary Spence, a very talented multidisciplinary artist:
Originally from the coastal Cree community of Fort Albany First Nation, on the western shores of James Bay in northern Ontario, Rosary Spence is a recording artist, actor, visual artist, designer and cultural educator. Steeped in time-honoured Aboriginal rhythms and styles, from traditional vocables, to acoustic rhythms and modern urban fusions. As a designer, Spence has been designing jewelry and custom leather works from a very young age. She was taught how to bead and create handmade leather works by her grandmother, Fabiola Spence. Her inspirations include her Cree heritage, urban culture, vibrant colours and elements. In 2007, Spence released her self-labelled fashion line titled Designs by Rosary which includes Indigenous fashion and footwear, graphic apparel, jewelry, and accessories. Rosary Spence currently resides in Toronto, Ontario.
“I’m learning that there is so much to be learned from Indigenous art and craft. It has a real purpose behind it that is incredibly meaningful and is proving to be an incredible way to ‘learn by doing/making/creating’ all together.” – Workshop participant
During the workshop, Rosary shared her stories, and chatted with people. Soon, all the participants were chatting amongst themselves while completing their work, putting their own good vibrations into that medicine pouch.
Some people found humility in the skill required to create the pouch; others found it in the stories shared by Rosary; and some found it in just being present in the moment with their colleagues.
After the workshop, when asked what Humility meant to them, one staff member responded:
“To take time to acknowledge and respect things around us, the animals, plant life, sky beings, the elements and everything in between. We are small beings and rely on many things to survive. We need to recognize and acknowledge that daily. To find our purpose and place in the world and accept where we are in the moment.”
Something I noticed, especially during this workshop, was how everyone really enjoyed each other’s company – no work talk or business hierarchy, no comparison or competition, just creation and connection amongst different human beings. Lovely.
Next week: Lindy reflects on the “Bravery” session of the INDIGENizeUS workshops at YPT.
About Lindy Kinoshameg:
A proud Odawa from the Pike clan, Lindy was raised in Wiikwemkoong Unceeded First Nation on Manitoulin Island. Lindy has spent the last 10 years in Toronto, focusing his energy on Indigenous cultural awareness and breaking stereotypes through the arts. Always striving to practice new art-forms, this has led to a multitude of experiences: Visual arts projects, Healthy Living Program Coordinator, and Indigenous Radio Program Host, working his way up to Production Tour Manager and Event Coordinator, Indigenous Dance and cultural workshop facilitation. Lindy is now involved with Young People’s Theatre as Community Engagement Facilitator, in part to his strong belief and push towards incorporating Indigenous values and teachings into his practice, and sharing his knowledge with others.