Native artists and leaders inspire young people

By Cara Cain
Pierre Radisson Collegiate
Winnipeg, Manitoba

To me, my aboriginal heritage is priceless. The ways that aboriginal people make a difference can be seen in several of my heroes, including Beatrice Culleton, Pauline Mitsuk, and others who have contributed to the wealth that is the visual artistry of Canada.

Beatrice Culleton is an author, and she has written books like April Raintree and a children's book called Spirit of the White Bison. She plans on writing a sequel to April Raintree. Her life started on August 27, 1949 in St. Boniface, Manitoba, which is where I live. Her parents were Louis and Mary Clara Mosionier and she was the youngest of their four children.

Beatrice Culleton

When she was three years old, Culleton became a ward of the Children's Aid Society of Winnipeg. She grew up in foster homes away from her real parents and her people, but for a couple of years she lived in a foster home with one of her older sisters. Years later, both of her older sisters committed suicide; at times she must have agonized over her loss. She is now involved in a coalition on Native Child Welfare and the recently formed Mamerve Wici Itita Centre. Beatrice Culleton is truly a Metis hero to me.

Another strong person of the Aboriginal people is Pauline Mitsuk. I respect her because she has achieved status as a leader in the St. Boniface School Division as our Aboriginal Outreach Worker. In May of this year, she organized an entire day where senior high school students like me could gather at our Board Office to celebrate various aspects of our culture.

  We took part in aboriginal dancing and singing and got to pick what workshop to go to: there was Dream Catching, Singing and Dancing, Rock Painting, and Clothing. I picked Rock Painting with Sharon Hull. On my rock I painted an eagle, and a wolf connected to the eagles wing, and moon connecting them all together. Sharon Hull says that animals represent sharing. Another thing she said was that it is good to use only two colours because colorus are sacred, "...And let the great Spirit guide you when you're drawing."

Another artist is Norvel Morrisseau, Ogibbiwan Artist. He was part of the Wood Land Seven; other members included Eddie Cobiness, Alexander, Carl Ray, Daphine Odjig, and Jackson Beardy, but unfortunately he's dead. Norvel Morrisseau usually paints about legends and stories and his stories are done on birchbark. Art on birchbark was and still is common. Over 1000 years ago the Aboriginal people did art on rocks, birchbark, and they also used porcupine quills to make their designs.

Clearly, my aboriginal heritage is priceless to me, a Metis person.