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About This Piece: Rooted Resilience

Commissioned for the Maamwesying Ontario Health Team

Featured In: The Sault Star

This piece is my own artistic representation of the collaboration agreement between the Maamwesying Ontario Health Team and Health Sciences North.

The Maamwesying Ontario Health Team’s motto is “Indigenous health in Indigenous hands”. As a new OHT, we draw from the teachings of a plants growth, as our organization grows we remain deeply rooted in Indigenous culture. Our goal is to foster strong relationships with our communities, hospitals, and partners, recognizing that we can't do this work alone ; just as a plant cannot grow without the sun, soil, rain, insects and animals.

As we sign this agreement with HSN it signifies an important journey as you grow with us. The groundwork that is happening behind the scenes is extensive but necessary. Thus, this is represented by the roots. It may look as though we are just a plant starting to grow, but a strong foundation makes for a strong and resilient plant.

The two women in this painting to me represent Indigenous health in Indigenous hands. The women are at the core of everything we do, they are our water warriors, mothers and care givers. When I think of the health system as a whole I recognize the barriers and hardships our women have and continue to experience. It is no surprise that Indigenous women were and continue to be targeted. They are at the heart of our communities. Being Indigenous, I know this all too well. We live within a patriarchal and colonized society that tries very hard to strip Indigenous women of their power.

 But, this is why I'm so proud to represent our OHT and be asked to create a piece that shows our commitment to not only these women, but to their families, loved ones, brothers, uncles and children.

This partnership signifies a collaborative effort to transform healthcare for Indigenous peoples by embracing their unique cultural knowledge and traditional practices. Which is what I have tried to convey in this piece. The women are not hiding themselves, the women in this painting are reclaiming their power. Their hair in this painting is grown long and strong. In my community our hair is sacred. We are taught to grow our hair long, and to be proud of our identity. I wanted that to shine through in this piece because I believe the Maamwesying Ontario Health Team is about empowering our peoples in this same way, through not only healthcare but in life.

In the sky in this painting you can see that I’ve included my own artistic representation of the Health Sciences North logo as well as the MOHT logo. In our logo we have 7 flames in the centre, representing the 7 Grandfather Teachings. In my own interpretation I envision this as a sacred fire interwoven with the HSN logo as we continue to work together, ignite new ideas, and support each other along the way.

Overall when you look at this painting I invite you to think about the commitment HSN and the MOHT are making here today. This painting symbolizes the importance of Indigenous-driven health systems that are community-designed, innovative, and culturally safe. This painting aims to remind us of the agreement made here today that reaffirms the value of Indigenous peoples and their right to self-determination within the healthcare system. And last but not least it serves as a reminder of why this work is so important.

About This Piece: Heartbeat and Healing

Commissioned for the Maamwesying Ontario Health Team

Featured In:

About This Piece

In bringing this painting to life for the signing ceremony with Maamwesying Ontario Health Team and the North Shore Health Network, I aimed to capture the heart and soul of our collaborative journey. It's the second painting in this series, each one telling the story of our expanding partnerships and the growth we're achieving together.

At the center of the canvas stands a resilient plant, echoing the Maamwesying Ontario Health Team's motto — "Indigenous health in Indigenous hands." Just like a plant needs the sun, soil, rain, and various elements to thrive, our organization thrives on the strength of our communities, hospitals, and partners.

Shaped like a heart, the painting embodies the crucial role of Indigenous health in our shared mission. In my community, these collaborations come from the heart - a force driving our commitment forward.

The heart is also significant to me because in my community, I've been taught the heart berry, which is a strawberry, represents peace and forgiveness and is often referred to as the heart berry because of its shape. I hold this teaching close as I painted this heart because there is a lot of healing that needs to be done in this work. These ceremonies represent a significant part of that.

When I think of the heart, I also think of a drum being played as a heartbeat. When we think of the heart in health it is a vital organ that keeps us alive. This is also true for our culture and traditions.

When you say "I love you" in Ojibway, I've been taught it is greater than saying "I love you." You are saying, “I feel you, I empathize with you,” which is why this heart is so significant. We are not just putting love into this sacred ceremony for all of our relations; we are showing shared compassion and understanding.

Surrounding the heart are six flowers outlined in gold, each in the four quadrants of this painting representing the four directions. These florals also symbolize the sacredness of this ceremony and emphasize the importance of our shared agreements.

As the plant in the heart grows with each new collaborator, it represents the extensive groundwork happening behind the scenes. It might look like a young plant, but it stands on a solid foundation — a reminder of the importance of thorough preparation and creating resilient systems.

Embedded in the heart is my artistic take on the NSHN logo, a symbol of our interconnected identities. Together, these symbols capture the essence of unity and mutual respect, defining this significant moment.

Taking a closer look, this painting prompts reflection on the commitment forged today. It's a visual call for Indigenous-driven health systems that are not only innovative and community-designed but also culturally safe. It's a reminder of the agreements made, affirming the value of Indigenous peoples and their right to self-determination in healthcare.