Growing up outside the indigenous community, a lot of my Indigenous identity was projected onto me through old images like Curtis Edward photos and things like that, and there is this myth that native people are no longer there. I want to show that we are here, and so these drawings are all of my currently living relatives.
Except for my grandparents - they are here (in the last drawing) through a spiritual connection, between with me and my grandmother. When I went to make my piece, and I had everything ready and set up to make it, I couldn’t -- there was this block there. So I stopped. I drew my kids, instead (the one by last drawing). And the next morning, I could hear my grandma say, it’s ok to draw me, just hang me next to your son – because she and my son were very close. I felt I had this permission to go ahead and draw them.
I drew my grandparents separate from the residential school, because I really wanted to free them from the residential school. My grandmother would have definitely not wanted me to put her image alongside the residential school, because she did as much as she could to separate herself from that.
Strawberries have a very spiritual connection with indigenous people, they are the first berries of the season, they represent birth and renewal and the new year, the first celebration. They represent health and life. I think of this whole body of work as a healing process for indigenous people. Residential schools are a very small portion of our history, and there is so much more that defines us. I think of the strawberry as this healing, rebirth, and renewal, because I really do believe that Indigenous people are in a renaissance right now. The culture, the language, is alive and is coming back.
I took an anthropology course, and there were circles and squares and diamonds to represent family trees. There was something very beautiful about that visual imagery. With the strawberries and their root systems, I was thinking about that kind of code, symbolizing family trees and rebirth and history. I saw the botanical drawings, and that’s what drew me in – oh, I need the plant with the roots, for when you think about history from generation to generation, it all affects everything. The residential school affected how my grandmother parented, how my father parented, it affected how I parented, and that is what I was thinking about with the botanical drawings.