We are grateful to share this excerpt from the Canadian Parliament, after a visit to NBCCD from the Hon. Carolyn Stewart Olsen.

1st Session of the 42nd Parliament
Volume 150, Issue 257
Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Mi’kmaq and Maliseet Art

Hon. Carolyn Stewart Olsen: “Colleagues, I rise today to speak about the Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqey or Maliseet art.

On a recent visit to our provincial capital in Fredericton, I made a point of visiting the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. I’d been reading of the work of our dedicated volunteers to bring more of our history to life.

Although my visit was unscheduled, I was warmly greeted by Charles Gaffney, who oversees the visual arts program, and Dan Robichaud, an instructor in the program. Mr. Gaffney is passionate about accurately recreating the culture of our First Peoples of the Maritimes. As a member of Tobique First Nation, he is keen to highlight the achievements of the Wolastoqe and Mi’kmaq people.

Fascinating new programs are being created. I’ve noticed much of the art that we see in our national galleries that comes from Indigenous communities reflects the customs of the plains and West Coast and not so much of the East Coast. The First Nations in the east have a rich and vibrant tradition that deserves more national recognition. New Brunswick is taking a leadership role by supporting our Indigenous artists, who are taking on an increasingly entrepreneurial role.

The Aboriginal arts program at the college invites students from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds to get hands-on experience, recreating the art of New Brunswick’s First Peoples. Indigenous artists in the program have seen their art showcased on the world stage. The work of eight of our artists was displayed and put up for purchase at the renowned Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design Fair in Chicago.

During my visit to the college, I had the opportunity to meet one of the artists and observe her in action. Braelyn Cyr, from Campbellton, New Brunswick, displayed her beautifully constructed wampum pieces at the art exhibit. Wampum is an ancient form of Indigenous art that was used to record the history and legends of Indigenous people. It consists of intricately woven white and purple beads made from seashells. In the early colonial era it functioned as a form of money used in the growing trade between Europeans and First Nations communities.

Ms. Cyr was in the middle of creating a wampum display when I arrived. She generously took time away from her work to speak about how she creates her art and the significance it has for her.

I left the college with a high appreciation for the distinct traditions of New Brunswick’s Indigenous peoples. Mr. Gaffney and Mr. Robichaud were kind enough to take their time to educate me about the broad range of First Nations art that exists in the Maritimes.

Visits like this show the great things that can be learned by all of us as senators, by taking a moment to visit the small museums and art galleries in our regions. I once again urge all senators to reach out to cultural organizations in the areas they represent. As regional representatives, it is our duty to work to preserve and promote the heritage that has been bequeathed to us by our ancestors. Thank you, senators.”

Originally published: https://sencanada.ca/en/content/sen/chamber/421/debates/257db_2018-12-05-e#6
Photograph of student Braelyn Cyr.