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2nd Annual New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts:
Reflections and New Directions
Carleton University, March 1, 2003
 
P r e s e n t a t i o n s
 

David McLeod

            Ojibwa-Métis poet, writer, and General Manager of Native Communications Incorporated (NCI) David McLeod has been involved in Indigenous radio and television programming for fourteen years. As a member of the Aboriginal Writers Collective in Winnipeg, McLeod composes and performs spoken word poetry. In “Footnote to My Religion: Thank You Allen Ginsberg,” McLeod uses beat poetry to reclaim the word ‘sacred,’ which has been depleted of meaning through excessive and inappropriate use. For McLeod, the sacred begins in the heart and transcends all verbal definition. In his poem focused on money, McLeod honours the spirit of generosity that pervades even the poorest Indigenous communities. Since 1999, the ten core members of the Collective have met bi-weekly to share and critique each other’s work on a pre-selected topic. McLeod presents a selection of their poetry, which addresses themes of urban experience, homelessness, and stereotypes. The group will be releasing a CD of spoken-word poetry entitled Red City, as well as collaborating with North of 60 star Tina Keeper to produce a selection of short videos. McLeod shares his thoughts on the creative process, envisioning a wellspring of collective creativity from which individual artists bring back but a cup. In his poem “I Write,” he describes painful experiences in contemporary Indigenous life as a cleansing process, to open up space for positivity and truth. To close his presentation, McLeod presents a selection of contemporary Indigenous music in several genres, seeing grounds for optimism for the future of Indigenous music with the Aboriginal Music Awards and recent incorporation of an Indigenous music category into the Juno and Grammy Awards.

 

Jennifer Podemski

            As cofounder of the award-winning Indigenous film and television production company Big Soul Productions, Jennifer Podemski empowers Indigenous youth through television and media. Growing up in Toronto, Podemski participated in theatre, music, and dance to cope with issues of alcoholism and abuse, emphasizing the importance of the mentors and role models who motivated and inspired her. As a young actress, Podemski recognized the racial prejudice of the industry and responded with increased passion and commitment. While Indigenous actresses were typically cast as drug addicts and prostitutes, Podemski secured positive roles in The Diviners, Dance Me Outside, and The Rez, which renewed her own sense of identity. After a period of difficulty, she landed a role in Riverdale, where she met her future partner in business, Laura Milliken. Fed up with the industry, Podemski and Milliken formed Big Soul Productions to empower Indigenous youth through media. In the television series Seventh Generation, they profile successful Indigenous professionals in a variety of fields to provide role models for youth. They are entering their third season with funding from the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Their film, drama, music videos, documentaries, and short form public service announcements are currently being aired on foreign networks. In the media empowerment module Representin’, they provide training for up to fifty youth behind and in front of the camera, including mentors from the industry. Big Soul Productions will also be producing Moccasin Flats, a dramatic television series surrounding youth life on a Regina reserve. By providing Indigenous programming and training, Podemski hopes to affect positive change in the industry and establish a foundation for the future.

 

Greg Hill

            Multidisciplinary visual artist and Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) Greg Hill reflects on colonialism and nationalism using performance, installation, video, painting, and drawing. Born not far from the Six Nations reserve in Fort Erie, Ontario, Hill was raised by his Mohawk father and French Canadian mother. In the multimedia painting Ipso Facto, Hill employs modernist art methods to parallel the division and demarcation of Canadian lands by surveyors. As part of the Quoting Commercialism exhibition at the Banff Centre, in which Hill combines sculpture with performance as his alter ego Joe Brant, Flying Mohawk Pizza Company converts garbage into an Oka warrior flag to explore themes of consumerism and nationalism. Hill’s Tekwanònhweraton tsi ken'en Kanata nitisewenonh / Bienvenue à Kanata / Welcome to Kanata exhibition focuses on designing a new identity for Canada that is reflective of its Indigenous roots, beginning with replacing the word ‘Canada’ with the original Iroquoian ‘Kanata,’ meaning village. Displayed in the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, the exhibition of ‘Indigenized’ nationalist paraphernalia is combined with a mock media campaign alerting newspapers and Indigenous leaders of an official national name change to ‘Kanata.’ For admission to the show, individuals require a Kanata Passport stamped by the customs officer (Greg Hill), as documented in his video Anything to Declare. The exhibition includes photo-based digital prints that explore the idea of external and self-imposed boundaries, as well the Kanata Flag Day video, which documents Hill’s public interviews regarding his newly designed Kanatian flag. In his curatorial position, Hill recognizes positive change in the inclusion of Indigenous art into the contemporary Canadian galleries at the NGC, envisioning an optimistic future for Indigenous artists.

 
Luncheon

            A sense of community and joy pervades the luncheon, as presenters and audience members alike share a meal of gourmet Indigenous food. Using hand-held drums, the White Tail Cree Powwow Singers perform traditional Powwow music, inspiring audience members to join hands and dance.

 

Chris Sutherland (CREEALIAS), Gitchie Cheechoo (SYLABIX), and the White Tail Cree Powwow Singers

            James Bay Cree hip-hop Powwow musical duo Chris Sutherland (CREEALIAS) and Gitchie Cheechoo (SYLABIX) reflect on their relationship to the land using a unique hybrid musical style, with back-up vocals and drums by the White Tail Cree Powwow Singers. After landing a spot on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network’s “First Music and Arts,” they produced a two song EP. Seeing connections between Powwow beats and hip-hop, they aim to heal Indigenous youths by linking them with their traditions. As a hip-hop and visual artist, Sutherland stresses the healing power of art for himself and others. Similarly, as a means of communicating with the land and spirits, Powwow music allows Cheechoo to deal with his own feelings and contribute to a positive identity. Through conscious hip-hop, they hope to educate about their culture, provoke thought, and revive traditions. Sutherland uses his lyrics to paint a picture in “The Track is a Canvas,” which addresses the connection to the ancestors and land, as well as issues within urban Indigenous experience. Similarly, “Time” explores the connection to the Creator and the necessity of using our time on the earth effectively. In “Wild Game,” trapping and hunting become metaphors for displaying skills in rap battles, as the duo explore issues of identity. The group stresses that communities must confront social issues before healing can occur in “Make You Think,” which highlights the intergenerational impacts of colonialism. The group reconciles traditional and contemporary art forms by emphasizing that cultures are dynamic, and as Indigenous peoples, they have the right to use and change their own traditional arts to create something new.

 

Joane Cardinal-Schubert

            Multimedia artist, curator, writer, and activist Joane Cardinal-Schubert of the Blood First Nation has participated in several major art exhibitions across Canada including Indigena and Beyond History, with a nationally touring retrospective of her work entitled Two Decades. Cardinal-Schubert was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1985 and received a Commemorative Medal of Canada in 1993. She also participated in the Vagina Monologues and Loretta Todd’s 1994 film Hands of History. Instrumental in instituting the Aboriginal Arts Program at the Banff Centre,  she has been a tireless advocate for artist and Indigenous rights. In her work with the Aboriginal Alberta Awareness Society, Cardinal-Schubert contributes to positive Indigenous identities through festivals, Native Awareness Week,  and her F’N Gallery and Haute Café. Living and working in Calgary, she spent the first five years of her life on the land. Calling her work a “diary of healing,” Cardinal-Schubert describes her artistic practice as “taking over people’s minds, tricking [them] with beauty, texture, and composition.” Characterizing her early work, the painting of her grandmother entitled Sunday in the Gossips humanizes images of Indigenous families. Cardinal-Schubert expanded her focus to re-presenting Canadian history from an Indigenous perspective in the 1975 series Great Canadian Dream. In her prolific career as a visual artist, Cardinal-Schubert addresses numerous issues, including the mistreatment of the Lubicon people, museum collection and archiving practices, residential school experience, protection of resources, spirituality, and political issues such as Oka and Bill C-31. She leaves the podium with the liberated advice that has guided her own career: “Do anything you want: you don’t have to be an artist, you don’t need a gallery, you don’t need a curator, just do it!”

 

Sheila Petzold and Dan Clark

            Filmmaker and President of Telewerx Television Production Sheila Petzold is the director and producer of the film Almost Home: A Sayisi Dene Journal, a collaborative project between the community of Tadoule Lake and a non-Indigenous filmmaking team that includes Michael Fuller and Robert Lang, to be broadcast on CBC’s The Nature of Things. Thirty years earlier, the team produced a documentary on the tragic government relocation of the Sayisi Dene community from their ancestral lands to Churchill, Manitoba. The community lost their connection to the land, customs, and spirituality, resulting in poverty, alcoholism, and violence. Encouraged by Sayisi Dene Chief Ila Bussidor, the team created Almost Home to illustrate the positive changes in the community. A parallel narrative documents Bussidor’s nephew Dan Clark’s return to the community after being adopted out during the period of upheaval. The film traces the past century of the community, opening with archival footage of traditional caribou hunting life in the early 1900s, followed by the 1950s relocation project and its aftermath. Beginning in the 1970s, community members moved back to their ancestral lands at Tadoule Lake, which has developed into a well-established community; however, unresolved emotional issues remain. Limited resources and infrastructure, a weak economic base, poverty, and the influx of Southern media put further pressure on the community. Positive inroads have been made in bringing youth back on the land and reconnecting them with their traditions, and group healing initiatives are in the process of being established. Moreover, since his first visit, Clark has returned to the community five times, reconnecting with his mother and sisters. The community envisions a future of respecting traditions alongside the development of greater economic self-sufficiency.

Synopses by Anna Eyler

 

 
Please note: All presentations have been archived on DVD and can be borrowed individually from the Carleton University MacOdrum Library.  
 
 
A presentation of the New Sun Chair in Aboriginal Art and Culture
with the support of the Dean of Arts and Social Sciences and the New Sun Fund
administered by the Community Foundation of Ottawa.