Windspeaker Radio speaks with Lana Whiskeyjack, artist and educator at the University of Alberta in Indigenous Studies.
Lana Whiskeyjack’s art examines the paradox of being a Cree woman in the Western world.
Whiskeyjack looks to the grandmothers and sees how much they have had to endure in the times when so many of the ceremonies and families were lost. Young women now are excelling because of these role models they have had in their lives through their grandmothers, mothers and aunties who have been doing the hard work of reconciliation and decolonizing and Indigenizing the whole of their communities for a very long time.
“We continue to carry on the songs, carry on the teachings… being connected to our earth, being connected to the full moon, our grandmother moon… and sharing those circles with other women, and supporting one another, and then raising our sons to be strong and respectful and making our fathers and moshums and uncles to be accountable and treating us as life carriers.”
She advises young girls to give gratitude to the mothers they come from, remembering them and keeping them in their prayers. And be mindful of the work we have to carry on from them.
There are a lot of challenges of “living a good life on this earth we call our Mother.” She says she see culture as the belief systems that connect to our heritage “which is the earth.”
The challenge is finding safe spaces to onnect to the culture in “meaningful ways with kindred souls” and especially to the language. It’s a treasure to find Cree speakers who are sharing the language in a place of love and kindness, and of course, humour, and there are a lot of difficulties finding the support system to be who you are as an Indigenous person.
Whiskeyjack said she is what she is right now because she confronted the historical trauma that affets so many community members and family. “Confronting trauma is a pretty difficult process.” It’s pretty hard to overcome and transcend, she said.
But that work becomes a positive when people come to a place of confidence and the connection made to self, of breaking the cycles, of seeing the our children and grandchildren growing into strong human beings who can advocate for themselves, who make positive changes for themselves and their community.
Whiskeyjack has gained so much from her culture, and she sighs when asked what she hoped others would learn too.
To build good relations with Indigenous peoples begins with the land, and "hopefully" ceremony as well. It's in ceremony where the Indigenous world views are taught.
"And its a special, beautiful, kind space, of really connecting to the land and our cosmos as well."