Teresa Vander Meer-Chassé
Teresa Vander Meer-Chassé is of the Niisüü clan from White River First Nation in Tthèe tsa’ niik (also known as Beaver…
Indigenous Sovereignty Creating Representation
This winter, Darcy spoke with me to describe her journey as an artist, and to speak to what art and culture represents in her life as a northern Indigenous artist:
Art has helped me lead a healthy and successful life in that it’s very personally rewarding. I’m very interested in heritage and in honouring our ancestors as best as I can. I care about the environment, so art allows me to build connections with people who can help in the way that I can’t.
I can kind of bring attention to helping our animal relatives with my art, but I can’t do that without connecting with other people. Art allows me to do that.
Nature has made a big impact on my life in terms of getting me on the right track and healing. I’m able to spend my time focusing on nature in my art. I try to think of what nature is like, how it’s so calming, relaxing, mysterious. I want to try to capture in all my art the pristine beauty of the spirit of nature. That is what I’m always striving for.
I feel like we get a wisdom that is not lost from our ancestors. Sometimes it comes back in different ways, through dreaming or a shared story. You feel like your ancestors are still with you.
I’ve started to rethink my entire life—all the things I was taught during school. The best way I can describe re-indigenizing myself is trying to think of how my ancestors lived and try my best to get back to that way of life. I’m trying to do that by learning different traditional ways. I feel like I’m able to do that best with my art through dreaming.
I’ve always paid attention to dreaming. Sometimes during a dream, I can get a highly detailed image, or might just get a little fragment. Or I might hear something, like ‘blue crow’ or ‘white, outlined owl’ and I will put it in my art and that art will go to the right person or the right place. Or it will create an opportunity. That’s exactly how I met one of my favorite Elders, Shirley Adamson. She made a painting called Dream Within a Dream and it really intrigued me. Even though I’m quiet, I wanted to get to know her. It led to us working together and doing a lot of collaborations.
I also will pay attention to nature. Sometimes I’ll see a little shape in the mist, or shadows in trees, or some animal in shelter. Or I’ll see caribou and just be mesmerized and honoured to be in their presence, and I try to capture that in painting.
Carving is very relaxing to me. Other than my family, it’s one of the most important things in my life right now. It just makes me feel good being a carver. I want to earn the title of being a carver. I feel like at the end of my life if I can say that I’m known as a carver that I’ll have a good and satisfying life, and I’ll be satisfied with my life.
I feel a kind of grief when I don’t have my tools near me. I always want to bring them with me. One of my favorite things to do is to sit by the river or lake and carve and watch for loons.
As a child my gramma used to tell us stories. The thing I knew most about my great-grandfather who was Chief Isaac, was that the family knew him as a dreamer. He was well known for caring for people during the gold rush, during the Klondike era. Because I knew he was a dreamer and we heard about different things he could do, I paid attention to dreaming my whole life. I can remember dreams from being a small child. As I grew into an adult, different dream teachers came into my life. I learned things from them, and they inspired me. I started keeping a dream journal by my bed, and I’ll sketch when I wake up as best as I can. I credit that a lot for where I am today as an artist. Because I pay attention to dreams.
I really want to acknowledge the teachers I had at Northern Cultural Expressions Society. I don’t think I would have had the confidence if I wasn’t part of their crew. My carving teachers are Calvin Morberg, Justin Smith, Duran Henry and Colin Teramura. I feel like I just wouldn’t be anywhere without them. Because I was dealing with a First Nations gallery, I felt more confident to put my work out there. Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association has been very supportive as well. I really appreciate all their support.
[Currently] I’m working with my brother (Jason McDiarmid) who is also an artist. We’re planning on doing some work at our family gravesite to honour our ancestors by trying to research how they were traditionally buried and see if we can pay homage to that in our own way. It’s still under development and is very meaningful for me.
My daughter Rayny has taken to art the most. She comes to events with me. She is also a very talented painter. I’ve told her that she is the real artist in the family. I’m just doing a warmup for her. She told me back that she’s going to do a warmup for her own kids one day too.
Darcy McDiarmid’s work can be found at her studio at Chief Isaac Inc. headquarters in Dawson City, Northern Cultural Expressions Society (in Whitehorse) and at Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism, and at the Adäka Cultural Festival Gallery. She looks forward to also having her work at the Arctic Arts Summit.
Christine Genier is a woman of the Wolf Clan and a citizen of the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council. She is a broadcaster, journalist, writer, poet, performer, language keeper, culture keeper, aspiring matriarch, mother, daughter, sister and wife. Since 1995 Christine has been navigating a career that spans northern theatre, journalism, broadcasting, writing and public speaking. In her work, Christine shares a lived experience that spans over four decades of bridging culture and recovering the Indigenous space with those prepared to engage. She is a gatherer of stories and moderator of talks. Her focus is on solutions-based and action-oriented dialogue. Christine Genier is a contributing editor to the Arctic Arts Summit platform.
We, the hosts and organizers of Arctic Arts Summit 2022, recognize and respect the many languages of the circumpolar region. The core information on this site is presented in English and French, Canada’s two official languages, as well as in Inuktut, the most widely spoken Indigenous language in the North of Canada, and Southern Tutchone, one of the many First Nation languages in Yukon and the language of the nations on whose territory the in-person Summit will be hosted. The discursive and artistic content on this platform will be available in the language in which it was submitted and/or created.
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