Double Medicine Bears, Block Print, 12"x12", July 2014

Double Medicine Bears, Block Print, 12″x12″, July 2014

What is it about bears that we all seem to respond towards? I see videos of bears waving hi and bye and people just cracking up. I see pics of baby bears and pass them along myself. And my brother-in-law has been flat out slapped down and bit by a bear on his back shoulder – then flighted out to hospital. We seem to all have a lot of varying attachments to and discussions about bears and how bears greet us.


In the Oneida Language Animation Series on YouTube (see OniedaProductions, Charlie the Bear Personal Questions), Charlie Doxtater becomes the animated “Charlie the Bear.” He teaches important basic Oneida language lessons and again he just cracks me up. Good job on the animation to Michelle Danforth. At the 1:25 minute mark, with Lesson 1, the Basic Greeting is about asking about and telling if there is peace within you.

Recently, I was discussing the concept of noticing the health of our animals. The health of our clan animals also indicates the health of our clans. When we greet each other, we actually are saying, “I see the health/peace within you.” The answer in the Charlie the Bear Personal Questions video is “I have peace within me,” This everyday greeting is designed to remind all of us, with each relationship interaction, of the importance of recognizing our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health or peace that is within each of us. This overall health/peace is the strength of the individual and thus becomes the health/peace of the community.

Below is a video in the Mohawk language, where the greeting refers back to the Peacemaker, “Do you have the Great Peace?”


Double Medicine Bears is the greeting of health that makes for overall peace. This is one the of strongest forms of medicine available to each of us, each and every day. It reminds us to attend to our health and internal peace through daily practice and greeting each other each other in peace .

Indiginesse Memes

06. Blue Gallery 2Indiginesse, a new gallery exhibition at the Aurora Cultural Centre, is a creative forum for native women to share their spirit with new communities through storytelling, music, workshops and fine art. This landmark art exhibition was conceived and developed by Newmarket-based Metis artist, Nathalie Bertin. Together with Aurora Cultural Centre gallery staff Clare Bolton and Stephanie Nicolo, the curation team has created a show for the community of Aurora and York Region that is filled with National award-winning artists and performers.

The gallery exhibition runs May 7-June 28, and presents a vibrant and luminous collection of paintings, fashion, photographs and mixes media pieces, along with artisan workshops, an artist talk and a special concert performance. Their work is breathtaking in scope and messaging. The 14 artists representing First Nations and metis cultures from across North America explore traditional imagery in contemporary ways. Artists included are: Kayeri Akweks, Christi Belcourt, Lee Claremont, Raven Davis, Lee Deranger, Lita Fontaine, LauraLee K. Harris, Maria Hupfield, Nadya Kwandibens, Tanya Lukin-Linklater, Shelley Niro, Janice Toulouse. Of particular note is Christi Belcourt’s 8-foot work “The Painting Is A Mirror”, on loan from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. In addition, compelling “Missing” posters have been placed throughout the Cultural Centre; the call-to-action is a powerful reminder of the pressing and dire circumstances faced by aboriginal women.

Aurora Cultural Centre Opening 2014 1

Checking out that all is in order upstairs in the Great Hall Gallery before the people start to arrive. — at Aurora Cultural Centre.

Aurora Cultural Centre Opening 2014 4

Nathalie Bertin, guest curator, doing her speech about the exhibition. — at Aurora Cultural Centre.

With a uniquely First Nation and Metis women’s perspective, the exhibition invites meaningful discussion on the true lives of native women. This project is a catalyst for conversation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities and is the story of the female native spirit that survived historical struggles and continues to thrive through Aurora Cultural Centre Opening 2014 3 modern challenges.

Bertin has included a number of enhancements to the gallery experience – read below for details!


May 15: 7-9PM Opening Reception
All welcome, light complimentary refreshments provided.
Opening prayer by Metis Nation of Ontario Senator Dr. Alis Kennedy
Welcoming Remarks from Mayor Geoffrey Dawe, Town of Aurora
Traditional music performance by Suzanne Smoke & Cedar Smoke
Poetry by Raven Davis

May 28: 10AM-2:30PM Traditional Metis Beading Registered Workshop with Nathalie Bertin
Limited space – pre-registration is required. No prior experience necessary. Course fee $50 plus HST, plus materials fee of $15

June 4: 2-3PM   “Concrete Indian” | An Art Talk with Anishinaabe artist Nadya Kwandibens

Free admission, all welcome

June 20: 8PM  “Memere le Colibri: A Fiddle Performance”
8pm, Featuring Alyssa Delbaere-Sawchuk, Metis violinist
Tickets $10 plus HST; Family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children) $35 plus HST
Appropriate for ages 10 and up

Exhibition dates: May 7 to June 28, 2014
Gallery hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm, and during special events
Free admission

For further information, or to registers for workshops and purchase tickets, please drop by the Centre or call the office at 905-713-1818.

Aurora Cultural Centre Opening 2014 5

Group shot in front of Christi Belcourt’s painting before the people arrive. — at Aurora Cultural Centre.

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Pictures of the show opening on May 3rd, 2014 for 1 to 3 pm by Colette Lemmon.

See article at

Artists participating are:

Gary Sundown, David Fadden, Elizabeth Doxtater, Peter Jones, Melanie Printup Hope, Awenheeyoh Powless, Shelia Escobar, Robert House, Eric Gansworth, Tom Huff, Linley
B. Logan, Babe Hemlock, Karen Ann Hoffman, Ken Metoxen, Brenda Hill, Michael
Jones, Shelley Niro, Carla Hemlock, Frank Buffalo Hyde, Peter Jemison,
Jordan Thompson, Natasha Smoke Santiago, Martin Loft, Brenda Mitten,
Brandon Lazore, Tammy Tarbell, Carson Waterman, Sue Ellen Herne, Richard
Glazer Danay, Terill O’Brien, Kayeri Akweks, Sherrill Givens, and poets Alex Jacobs,
Janet Rogers, and Maurice Kenny.

April 1 through November 30 –  Standing in Two Worlds: Iroquois in 2014  What contemporary concerns warrant our attention and creative comment?Works exploring boundaries and borders, environment, hydro-fracking, economy, gaming, the digital/disposable age, sports mascots, the impact of national/international events and decisions, the role of tradition and community, and the state of the Arts will be featured.
May 3: Opening Reception for Exhibit – Standing in Two Worlds: Iroquois in 2014   1 to 3pm

For more information see or visit the museum at Iroquois Indian Museum, 324 Caverns Road, P.O. Box 7, Howes Cave, NY 12092, (518) 296-8949,

Bird Man Heals His Heart, 14"x16", watercolor on canvas with glue, November 2013

Bird Man Heals His Heart, 14″x16″, watercolor on canvas with glue, November 2013

Recently, I heard one of my relatives say “Native people are mean, [so I am mean.]” This is similar to “Natives are stoic – non-emotional, alcoholics – drunks, in gangs, violent, abusers, swear, mean teasers, bullies, poor – on commodities, uneducated, etc.” This thought practice is used where a young person chooses to define their Nativeness by the negative actions they see around them…actions affected by the disconnected behavior of other Native people. I, too, was mean for a long time and I thought it meant I was powerful. 

What I now know is that this disconnection is at the very core of Colonized thought and assimilation – behaviors that were NEVER viewed as traditional historically become community personality patterns that are then viewed as “how to be Indian.” It arises from not being connected to Creation. It comes from being taught not to respect oneself.

The late Audrey Lazore Shenandoah “Gonwaiani”, Eel Clan and life resident of the Onondaga Nation who cared for position of Deer Clan Mother, spoke about how to answer this dilemma in the book WisdomKeepers: Meetings with Native American Spiritual Elders, 2006. She states, “My Creator, let me look at nature today and let me have the highest respect for all the things I see. All the two legged, the four legged, the winged ones, the plants, the water, the air, the Mother Earth. Let me have respect for myself.”

In this painting, Bird Man begins to heal his heart through gratitude and connection to Creation. Both of these behaviors allow him access back into the circle of life and teach him respect for himself, others and all of the Earth. This connection to Creation automatically begins to heal Bird Man. Over time, he loses interest in trying to access power through his meanness. He starts out as a young plant needing daily connection, daily gratitudes – thanks giving prayers morning and evening, daily respectful actions internally and externally. It appears to be a difficult path because of a lack of practice. Through gaining connection to Creation, Bird Man knows his own place and worth in the entire universe. Bird Man then becomes more aware of where real power resides.

Mike Tarbell, Mohawk, works at Iroquois Indian Museum as an Educator. He talks about taking a sketchbook out into nature as a way to start connection to Creation and to change one’s thinking in this Youtube.

Red Bird is Finally Able to Fly Free with His True Wife,12"x12" monoprint, water based inks on heavy paper, November 2013

Red Bird is Finally Able to Fly Free with His True Wife,12″x12″ monoprint, water based inks on heavy paper, November 2013

I had a really hard time making my vamps for the artist collaborative project “Walking With Our Sisters.” I finally mailed them the exact last day they were due to be put in the mail, arriving at the post office breathless and a little shaky.

I had followed the Facebook community for months, learning deep emotional stories about fellow artists and watching the healing momentum grow and grow. To be honest, I had made/started at least 4 different designs. One was very traditional raised beadwork, two were a composite of contemporary and floral, and the last pair introduced appliqued cloth. Through all of the frustration, I finally came to the conclusion that I had to figure out what I wanted/needed  to say.

First of all, I wanted to be a true support to Christi Belcourt’s vision and to all of the people that were making vamps and posting pics of their incredible love-filled creations. Second, I wanted to add something to the topic of lost/stolen women, girls, babies – something that might grant as much compassion as possible to the hearts of all members of the families. Third, I wanted to hopefully add a healing viewpoint that would be helpful to others, perhaps aid thinking and action.

Walking With Our Sisters Mocassin Vamps 2013 - Kayeri AkweksWhen the idea for my vamps finally came, they had both male and female red birds heading to the sky together, equally strong, equally brilliant in flight.

I had been seeing red birds, mated pairs for months. They flew together. They harvested food together, called out warnings and love messages across the same tree. They relied on the other and yet did their own responsibilities fully.

I wanted to say something about how broken our society is for our men too. I wanted to say that our women will never be safe until our men heal – Not just Native men, all men. Oren Lyons, Longhouse Faithkeeper, in “Putting Power in its Place: Create Community Control!” edited by Christopher Plant & Judith Plant, New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, PA and Gabriola Island, BC. 1992, pages 70-73, talks about how afraid Haudenosaunee women were of their own men before the Peacemaker came.

A great war of attrition engulfed the lands, and women and children cowered in fear of their own men. The leaders were fierce and merciless. They were fighting in a blind rage. Nations, homes, and families were destroyed, and the people were scattered. It was a dismal world of dark disasters where there seemed to be no hope. It was raging proof of what inhumanity man is capable of when the laws and principles of life are thrown away.

Our times are often the same as that time. We have been in this place before because of an ongoing lack of connection to the Good Mind. I have many stories of hatred between men and women that have come to me over the years. What I need are more stories of how peace is created between men and women. I need stories of how minds are changed from violence to respectful compassion.

Gender war solves nothing and brings none of us the peace we truly crave from our dis-ease. Dominance smashes the souls of both the dominated and the dominator.

Red Bird and his Red Wife know how to live free, as equals, with deep respect for the other. I want the relief of that peace for our sons, daughters, parents, old ones, grandchildren, community and for each one of all of ourselves. I want all to feel and be truly safe.

Walking with Our Sisters FB page and exhibit tours listed –

double hawk web

Double Hawks Getting Ready to Dance is about the excitement and fun the People have preparing for a social dance. People think about the coming dance for months, then weeks, then days.  As the time gets closer, food gets prepared, songs are practiced, repairs on moccasins are made, and new outfits are readied, rattles are tested, and the water drum is re-stretched. Everyone wants to be together and DANCE!

The People love the feeling of being together dancing on the wooden floor of the Longhouse. Everyone loves hearing their favorite songs, the old songs and the new songs. Various groups of singers travel long distances to take their turn. There is tons of food for everyone. The People laugh and make jokes. Everywhere chatting and catching up conversations happen inside and outside the Longhouse. There are lots and lots of smiles. The entire world feels good.

Water drum and rattle info at

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