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We call it coincidence, we call it the spirit, and we call it simple luck. Natalie Pepin did not expect to find traces of his ancestors when he moved north of Edmonton and cultivated the land.
She traveled about 100 km north to the Tawatinau Valley in 2016 to reconnect with the land. In the process, she discovered a connection to the history of the area.
She found a plaque describing the development of the region, including the name of Metis, a well-known name. She herself Metis discovered that some of her ancestors were one of the first to start a fort at Athabaskan Landing and Slave Lake.
“That friendliness was one of being at home. I haven’t felt it since I left Manitoba at the age of 12,” says Pepin in a zoom call from home.
Unexpected connections with the land are important for cultural educators who make a living to help Metis and indigenous peoples reconnect with cultural practices and their heritage.
Pepin runs ReSkilled Life, a folk school that teaches classes on indigenous cultural customs. She teaches how to make leather tans, beads, embroidery, as well as ribbon skirts, birch baskets and soaps. Some courses are offered online, while others are taught directly.
Through ReSkilled Life, she also runs Meeting My Ancestors. According to her website, this is a program for Metis and Indigenous peoples designed around “regaining the roots of modern indigenous peoples”, where culture and history are intertwined and these activities are in a safe space. I understand that it is deeply rooted in the history of indigenous peoples.
“Most of the people who came to my event were mostly indigenous people who were trying to reconnect with their roots. I would like to share the story, part of our history, and the skills themselves.” Pepin says. “What I discovered was a story of people being connected. These traditional skills are a way for indigenous peoples who are separated from their culture to have a way to return to their culture.”
Pepin says he was fortunate to encourage his family to explore their history. We have grown up surrounded by people who already understand their heritage and want to celebrate it.
Her family is from a community called St. Francis Xavier, formerly known as Grant Town, about 15 kilometers west of Winnipeg. However, family ties with the past have been lost due to cross-generational trauma.
The woman, whom her grandmother Pepin calls “the ferocious power of reconnection,” has begun the process of connecting family roots by tracking history with relatives in North Dakota, Montana, and Alberta.
Pepin’s personal journey took her to southern Alberta, where she briefly studied nursing at the University of Lethbridge. However, her field of study was not appropriate and she was absent from class due to H1N1. “I will make a bad nurse,” Pepin says with a laugh.
She became interested in caribou research and looked for an environmental research program that she could take online. It ended up at either Royal Roads University in Victoria or Harvard. She chose Harvard.
Her coursework at a well-known educational institution gave her a foundation for sustainability, resource management and business. This is the perfect education to open her own business teaching traditional skills.
The success of her work through ReSkilled Life and Meeting My Ancestors drew attention from Fort Edmonton Park. A new Aboriginal Experience Exhibition was held in the park last fall, and staff wanted to see if Pepin could provide programming. She had one caveat. Art programming had to be tied to culture and story, not just art and craft projects.
“Art is about culture for us. All these ground points are connections to the land. Where do the supplies come from?” Pepin says. “The common thread is that it tells our worldview, the story of our history.”
Pepin taught the students how to turn the bark and spruce roots into baskets. In her upcoming sessions, she will explore animal fiber research using moose, caribou, and horsehair. Next fall, she wants to explore not only traditional harvesting, but also the ever-popular topic of quill and dying workshops.
“People from different backgrounds need to know each other in order to share and hear,” says Pepin.
Her work at Fort Edmonton Park is in Fort De Prairie, where Pepin is the name of the fort where her great-grandmother eventually became known as Edmonton, with more roots returning to the Athabasca Valles. When she discovers that, she goes around with her own family story. The winding road from Winnipeg to reconnecting through traditional art in the valley of northern Alberta, but it was the open mind that led Pepin in this way.
“One of the things I’m blessed with is the willingness to follow it. I have a little adventurous side and am happy to see where my path goes,” says Pepin.
Visit rescuedlife.com or meetingmyancestors.com for more information on Pepin and the courses she offers, or fortedmontonpark.ca for programming at Fort Edmonton Park.
Métis artist Natalie Pepin helps others explore indigenous culture through traditional art
Source link Métis artist Natalie Pepin helps others explore indigenous culture through traditional art