I’m so honoured to share a music video that I shot with Tipiskâw Pîsim (A.K.A MC NITE SUN) last summer in Treaty 7 Territory just West of what is now known as Calgary, AB.
I absolutely love Tipiskâw Pîsim’s work and honoured to have been able to do this collaboration; this song really speaks to the need for all of us to be better to women and mother Earth, for we are nothing without them.
My first introduction to Montréal occurred in 2013 and that is when I met the amazing Cree/Métis performer Moe Clark.
I had chatted with Moe in the past about potential collaborations, and after a brief reunion in Vancouver for the 2018 Verses Festival of Words, I knew for a fact that I had to come back to Montréal to see Moe.
My first day was jam-packed, right off the train and into my first shoot documenting performances at the Sisters in Motion event in the Mile End, followed by attending the Tomson Highway opera, which Moe was performing in. I was unprepared for how amazing this evening was going to be, I had never been to an opera before, and to have the Montréal Symphony Orchestra accompany an opera performed in both Cree and Inuktitut was just brilliant.
The rest of the week includes meeting many amazing people and shooting photos and band promo videos. My time here is coming to an end and by tomorrow I’ll be back in Toronto, but I am definitely moving here soon!
This article was featured in this month’s Northword Magazine.
Navigating turbulent seas in search of fish; warring with neighbouring families and villages; displaying your wealth and power through totem poles and potlatches. These are just a few elements of everyday life for the pre-contact Haida people, and now the inspiration for a Haida Gwaii strategy board game.
Nang K’uulas, or Patrick Shannon, developed the first version of his Haida Gwaii game during while staying on T’aanuu, a Haida village site in Gwaii Haanas, as part of the Haida Gwaii Watchmen program. Watchmen spend months at a time in the park, where there is little connection to the outside world other than the people who come to visit.
“Being immersed in a place that your family once lived and being surrounded by the energy of all those that came before, truly rooted me for the first time in my life,” says Shannon.
Without the distractions of internet, TV, or cell service, Shannon spent much of his time delving into the cabin’s library, learning more about the history, stories, and the many villages that once dotted every shoreline of Haida Gwaii. This newly-gained knowledge inspired Shannon’s creative side. “By sunset, in my sketchbook, I had the beginnings of a board game.”
With little to work with by way of materials, Shannon gathered up what he could find around the cabin to develop a first edition. A single pencil, an empty cereal box, a repurposed deck of cards, a stack of leftover pamphlets from 2013’s legacy pole raising, and rocks were used for the original game pieces. “On several occasions, I had to barter with visitors for more supplies,” says Shannon. “It made me feel very old school Haida.”
Once construction was complete, Shannon began beta testing with his fellow Watchman Nick Gladstone. “I knew that if he got bored, then I better make the game better,” says Shannon. Through these early trials, the game evolved into a fully-fledged Haida Gwaii strategy game. The game, called by its working title, “The Village People,” is built around the traditional practices and ways of life of the Haida people, and uses a board directly inspired by Haida Gwaii’s geography and waterways. Players begin the game as a Haida family in a time before contact, and start with a randomly selected village. The goal of the game is to become the most respected family by trading, expanding your villages, building longhouses and totem poles, gathering resources, warring, and potlatching.
It’s been two years since Shannon sketched out the original prototype at T’aanuu, and in that time it has been played over 25 times. “Each time the game has been played, it’s evolved,” says Shannon. “Input from other players, unexpected scenarios, and donated game pieces have shaped it into something that is just so cool to play, and it gets better each time.”
As the game evolved, Shannon has explored its potential as a teaching tool for schools and the general public alike. With hopes to one day develop the game in partnership with Haida Gwaii language authorities, the game could be a beginner’s gateway to the Haida language. “I would also like to provide information on historic villages, highlighting the clans and history of each place,” he says.
“The Village People” will continue to be tested until the mechanics are fully worked out, and then Shannon is planning to self-finance and produce a limited run of copies to go to schools, and be made available for purchase.
“I just want to complete it and see how the response is from the community,” says Shannon. “Making sure that it’s respectful and supported would be vital if I were to ever go larger with it, but the potential is there.”
I was so fortunate While passing through Vancouver to be contacted by my good friend and powerhouse indigenous fashion hero Joleen Mitton. She was organizing a private show featuring the new clothing line by designer Ellena Neel @ellenaneel.
Ellena’s beautiful and diverse clothing line was complemented by the stunning and talented indigenous models Gillian Thomson, Cody Kearsley, Alexis Battle, Monday Blues, and Ellena herself, with MUA Alyssia Requena.
The Salzburg Global Seminar’s forum for Young Cultural Innovators was hands down one of the most amazing experiences that I have had the privilege to be a part of.
The SGS has been around for 70 years, bringing some of the brightest minds in the world together to change the world through culture, creativity, and innovative thinking. This year they brought together 50 of the top Young Cultural Innovators from around the world for 5 days to learn from powerful change makers, discuss challenges and ideas, and grow strong relationships with others from around the world to help us all in our journeys of creating positive social change.
The week was exhausting, but so powerful, and lit an even bigger fire in my belly.