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Auroran: Native women share perspectives in landmark exhibition
As a Metis woman, Nathalie Bertin didn’t discover her Aboriginal heritage until she was in her mid-20s.
In Ontario and Quebec, she says, assimilation happened much earlier than it did in Western Canada and there are many families who might not even know they have native blood. This was not the case with Ms. Bertin.
Her parents knew of their heritage but, with three children growing up in Toronto, they were reluctant to say anything due to negative images of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples which were pervasive at the time. But, eventually, their heritage came to light.
“A light goes on and you understand certain things in life,” says Ms. Bertin of discovering her roots as an adult. “Quite frankly, I feel ripped off about it and I feel like I have spent the last 20 years catching up because there is so much to learn. There is a lot of beauty in the culture.”
This is a beauty the Newmarket-based artist has tried to share through her work and this week, her vision, three years in the making, will be unveiled at the Aurora Cultural Centre in Indiginesse: Perspectives from Contemporary Native Women.
Hailed by the Aurora Cultural Centre as one of the primary cornerstones of their 2014 season, the exhibition formally opened for viewing on Wednesday, with the official opening reception scheduled for Thursday, May 15.
Indiginesse brings together the art – and the messages – of Aboriginal and Metis women from coast to coast in work ranging from painting, to sculpture, to textiles.
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Community ‘hurting’ after death of Wanda Big Canoe
One of the most well respected elders of the Chippewas of Georgina Island has died at the age of 85.
Wanda Big Canoe, who worked a lifetime to bridge the gap between Native people and non-native people in the United States and Canada, beginning more than 40 years ago in California, died yesterday.
“A lot of people are hurting, but she is out of pain,” her sister, Lorraine, said from the Island this morning.
Plagued by back pain for most of her adult life due to an injury,Wanda’s health had been failing for the past month.
Described as a warm, encouraging and gracious individual known for being a wonderful representative and true matriarch, the University of California graduate was widely recognized as a peacemaker in the greatest sense.
As a member of the California Indian Education Association, she was assigned to the steering committee for the formation of an American Indian Studies and Cultural Centre at UCLA.
Her efforts to help young native students from various reservations thrived, thanks to an American Indian Scholarship Fund Association she started and which is still in existence today.
Back in Canada, she continued her efforts to help native youth further their education by successfully landing several special scholarships.
She helped street youth learn a skill through a jewelry project and supported education for aboriginal young people at all levels.
As one of the Ladies of the Lake, Wanda dedicated her life to its health and restoration.
The daughter of renowned Chief Lorenzo Big Canoe, Wanda is survived by her son, Dr. Phil Adamson, and two grandchildren,
“Everybody loved her. She was a beautiful, vibrant, intelligent and driven woman,” her sister said. “Everyone is hurting today.”
The respected elder of the Chippewas of Georgina Island leaves behind a legacy of extraordinary achievement and dedication.
She won the long-term volunteer award for the In Celebration of Women, a special award from First Nations Artisans Association, as well as the highly prestigious Golden Bear Award in California for her work there.
She was awarded the YMCA Peace Medal in 2007.
She also acted as the Indian Affairs chairperson for the Federation of Women’s Clubs.
Living much of her life in the public eye, Wanda was humble, modest and never seemed aware of the incredible power of her inner and outer beauty, her sister said.
“Most people wouldn’t have known she did a screen test with Clark Gable,” she added.
Or that her mother was second runner up for Miss America.
But promoting peace by caring about people and the environment was where Wanda devoted a lifetime of her energies.
Many people are expected to honour her memory and pay their respects at a traditional Native ceremony on Georgina Island this week.