When it comes to art and expression the First Nations of Canada have been conveying their heart and soul for hundreds of years prior to European settlers coming to the area. It is truly one of the most ancient and sincere practices that Canadians should hold dear to their hearts. As the editor of this magazine I was raised in Squamish and went to school at Garibaldi Highlands Elementary School as well as Brackendale Secondary School. I have a fond appreciation for First Nations culture and history and go out of my way to ensure people around me know the facts about how North Vancouver is situated on Squamish lands.
In this article we had the distinct honour to chat with Adele Maskwasowiskwew Arseneau who is a Cree and Métis artist based here in North Vancouver, to get to know her story and journey through her artwork. Checkout what she had to say below as she’s very inspiring indeed. People with mental health issues or PTSD can benefit greatly from her energy through her works of expression.
How did you get started with being an artist and what do you like about operating in North Vancouver?
I started painting and selling paintings in 2015 but it was a side gig as I had just graduated as a Geomatic Engineer. My paintings were well received, and it naturally led to me to believe that it might work as an entrepreneurship. It wasn’t until 2016, when I had a severe conflict with my boss and ended up in the hospital that this was going to be my reality. After taking a 10-week small business program through WorkBC, I had just got my small business license when I had a stroke. This unfortunately left me unable to work, my art became the only thing I was capable of doing. It’s been both my physical and mental therapy, and my means of supporting myself. I’m grateful as an indigenous entrepreneur that the Squamish Nation allows me to moor my float home and operate my business on their land. Living on the site of their ancestral Seymour Village, means a lot to me being displaced from my home territory all my life.
What are the types of art and expression that you offer to customers?
I’m a contemporary nehiyaw (Cree) Métis artist. My mother is Cree and my father is Métis. I create art surrounding those things that are important to me: the environment, animals, my life experiences and my beliefs. I create custom contemporary and traditional beadwork that encompasses earrings, bracelets, medallions, mocassins and appliqué work. In addition to my beadwork, I do custom handcarved wood sculpture commissions in a Plains and West coast style. I was accepted by Squamish Nation master carver Xwalacktun (Rick Harry) as a carving apprentice for two years. Lastly, I sell limited edition giclee cards and prints of my designs.
If our readers want to purchase art from you what is the best way for them to do so?
Email is best to get clarity on what you are looking for and to answer your questions, and then through Instagram or Twitter. I also sell prints on high demand products such as clothing, household goods, phone cases, etc. using Redbubble.
Before operating your art business what were you doing for work or a career?
I’ve had an interesting life and have experienced many different kinds of work including: Outfitting guide, RCMP Constable, Chauffeur, Accountant, Prepress Technician, Kayaking Guide/Instructor and many more. But my absolute favourite work was as a Surveyor/Geomatic Engineer as I got to travel to places many don’t get to see and help build things. If you’ve travelled on Hwy 97 North from Hope to Prince George, you’ve travelled on roads I helped build. Not to mention it kept me outdoors where I could meet wildlife and experience the beauty of this land we live upon.
Outside of operating as an artist what do you get up to for activities in your personal time?
Having had a stroke, there’s not much I can do other than my art. I used to love to kayak but my balance, motor skills, coordination and sight have been compromised, so it can be difficult to do things without help. I find I don’t really need a lot of personal time. I’m happiest when I’m creating, because it erases time for me. There’s so much in my head clamouring to “be born” and I find there’s just not enough time to create it all. My husband is as independent as I am. We currently enjoy living with our two bears (aka dogs) in our float home. We have an Alaskan Malemute and a Malemut/Akita cross puppy at the moment.
Lastly, is there anything else you might want our readers to know about you or your artwork?
I have a Patreon page for people who wish to support a real indigenous artist creating art with a message or purpose. Currently, I’m trying to create an exhibit around the high occurrence of PTSD and mental health within the indigenous community, having experience with both myself. In creating this, I hope to create space for people to be acknowledged and find healing for themselves. Kininaskometin / Maarsii/ Thank you so much for having me, I appreciate being able to tell my story.
If you would like more information you can visit her website and connect with her using social media apps on Instagram and Twitter.
Questions can go to firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-512-4332