Guest Curator: Sho Sho Esquiro
Artists: Sho Sho Esquiro , Vashti Etzel, Salisha Old Bull, Krystile Silverfox , Teresa Vander Meer-Chasse, Speplól Tanya Zilinski
Pushing Boundaries is North Van Arts’s biennial open-call exhibition to showcase emerging local and national contemporary First Nations/Métis/Inuit artists, makers, and craftspeople. This exhibition is designed to celebrate contemporary Indigenous art practices, fusing modern and traditional creative techniques. This year’s theme is “Our Home on Native Land.” This exhibition explores the issues threatening Indigenous sovereignty for the past hundreds of years since the 1400’s. Some of the main issues and key events include Aboriginal title and Extinguishment; Inherent right to land or territory; Enfranchisement; the Federal Governments assimilation policies I.e., Indian Act 1876; and the 1763 Royal Proclamation.
Systemic harms and racism still exist within Canada’s governments and as we delve deeper into Canada’s past Canadian’s will learn about how these policies affected Indigenous Peoples such as not having the right to vote federally until 1960. Currently under the Indian Act “Indians” do not own their land. Instead, it’s held for them by the government as “Crown Land”.
We all need to have a greater understanding of the history that is not taught. Through greater knowledge sharing we work towards reconciliation with hopes that non-Indigenous people will stand in solidarity and become allies who create space for understanding, compassion, and empathy. Through intergenerational strength and resilience, we create to share our story.
Curatorial Statement by Sho Sho Esquiro:
Envisioned is a space of healing, learning, and honoring truths. Expressing oneself through art is a gift all can accept with gratitude. Standing in solidarity with a willingness to listen to the voices of our story keepers. “Stories are my Wealth”, written by cherished Tagish Elder Angela Sidney. We as artists use our art form to capture the past, present, and future. We honor those Ancestors whose strength and resilience guide us forward.
About Sho Sho Esquiro:
Sho Sho Esquiro (Kaska Dene/Scottish/Cree) combines the inspiration of traditional Indigenous textiles and modern urban culture to create art in the medium of fashion. Profoundly inspired by her childhood in Ross River and her connection to her extended Indigenous families and communities, artist ShoSho Esquiro’s stunning garments have been shown in Canada, New York, Paris, Santa Fe, and are sought after by museums across North America. Using beadwork, porcupine quills, and moose-hair tufting, details are appliqued with great care and consideration for its origin. The choice of materials honours the designer’s Indigenous teachings that everything from the earth is to be used with respect. Inspired by her current city life in Vancouver, BC and her upbringing in the Yukon Territory, Esquiro melds these natural materials with alluring colour palettes, flawless design and classic silhouettes in a contemporary way. ShoSho has won numerous awards, including: 1st Place Clothing Competition, Santa Fe Indian Market, 2013; Best of Division Bead Work, 22nd Annual Eiteljorg Indian Market and Festival, 2014; Honorable Mention, Santa Fe Indian Market Clothing Competition, 2015; and 1st place at the Autry Museum in L.A. 2015; 1st place in Textiles at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. She has also represented Canada twice in Paris, France with fashion shows on the Eiffel Tower in 2014 and 2019. Her work is in the collection of the Yukon Arts Centre and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and has been featured in Native Fashion Now!, a national traveling exhibition organized by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.
About Vashti Etzel:
Vashti Etzel is a Dene artist who specializes in fine arts with the intention to manifest ancestral healing and empowerment.
Vashti comes from Ross River, Yukon. Her Kaska name is Nénests’ík Mā which translates to “Mother of sewing” given to her by respected elder Hammond Dick. She is descended from Shuhta Dene (Mountain Slavey) and Kaska Dene on her mother’s side and Chipewyan-Cree on her father’s side. She is also influenced by Scottish and German great grandparents on both sides.
Inspired by her late grandmother Eva Etzel (Ollie)who was a residential school survivor she uses traditional and contemporary designs incorporating raw materials such as, porcupine quills, hide and caribou hair to create luxurious statement earrings and wearable art with extraordinary and vibrant combinations of colour, texture and form. Vashti inherited this artistic gift by blood memory which is known in the modern world as being self taught.
Vashti has shared her skills and passion for cultural art by teaching several workshops in the northern communities. She has had her art featured in numerous exhibitions in Canada, featured in magazines, CBC news T.V and Radio and just recently in the Adäka cultural festival fashion show “Dá Ze Tsán”
Today she lives in Kaska country at Faro, Yukon with her children and spouse. She continues to travel on her traditional lands in all seasons with her family to gather materials, ideas and inspiration for her art.
Vashti Etzel – Artist Statement:
It was in the 1960’s sometime during the winter. The Tūłidlini Dene, known as Kaska Dene people were forced to relocate from “Old Ross”. Old Ross was a special gathering place at the confluence of the Ross and Pelly River. Sometime in the winter during trapping season the government Indian agents came in and moved the people’s cabins while they were out trapping. They came back and their homes were gone. The cabins had been dragged across the river to the new proposed community site. The Indian agents were ruthless and found it much easier to have access to the Kaska Dene in this new town.
Today, we as Dene are reclaiming our land back. We are reclaiming our special gathering place and using the land for cultural purposes that will contribute to our healing and growth. As a child I had many memories running freely in the sage covered field and playing the last standing cabin in Old Ross.
Fast forward 30 years from my childhood to today, the old cabin in which I thought was one of the trading posts; is actually a cabin belonging to a late band member Allen Dickson. The cabin was built by my late grandfather’s brother Bill Etzel. Today the cabin is being reclaimed by wild vegetation and the presence of the Kaska Dene. I look inside the building, and it is filled with wild rose bushes, grass grows on the roof. The trading post was moved across the river, in the 1960’s I believe- it no longer stands.
The Growth Purse was born during a unique time in my life of healing, growth and perseverance. During my weakest moments I found strength. And it’s always our culture that calls out to our heart and allows us to heal in the most sacred of ways. I was inspired by the growth I had noticed within myself and the slow but never-ending healing cycle that I have endured throughout my life. I was inspired by our people and the initiatives we do to heal ourselves from the traumas we face today and from the history of colonization and residential schools. On the purse there are seeds, roots and blossoming flowers. They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds. I thought about healing, growing and flourishing. I incorporated caribou tufting, porcupine quills, gemstones, 24kt gold beads, vintage and contemporary beads, melton wool, smoked moose hide, caribou antler buttons and findings. The best of the best because Indigenous is luxury.
About Salisha Old Bull:
Salisha Old Bull was born in Eastern Montana and raised on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Western Montana. Her mother is Salish and father is Crow so she has a well-rounded bundle of Indigenous teachings from the Montana area. She is married to Shandin Pete and has 5 children. She was an aspiring artist as a child but chose to follow a different career path. She kept art in the background of her life and expressed most of her creativity through beadwork. She was taught to bead by her maternal grandmother, Rachel Arlee Bowers when she was a very young child and considers her earliest memories of beading at about her second grade in elementary school. In addition, painting, photography, digital art, and drawing are other favorite mediums. She gains inspiration from traditional ecological knowledge from both Salish and Crow tribes and uses this imagery within her artwork. These aspects of cultural knowledge are the attributes that empower Indigenous people.
Salisha Old Bull – Artist Statement:
I am motivated by the Salish history and Indigenous place-based knowledge. I have learned that place gives a sense of self and allows a person to grow intellectually and continue to explore their possibilities in life. I also feel that cultural preservation is a strong influence in my life, and I enjoy combining imagery that reflects cultural values. I was raised by fierce Salish women and I want to continue to practice our cultural traditions and carry on as much traditional ecological knowledge as possible, to empower the generations that follow ours. I work in a range of mediums including painting, photography, beadwork and digital art. I used beadwork as an expression of the nature that reflects my tribal heritage. I enjoy the idea of combining the mediums to continue to explore inclusivity and cultural awareness.
Krystle Silverfox is a member of Selkirk First Nation (Wolf Clan), and interdisciplinary visual artist. She currently lives and works on the territory of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Ta’an Kwach’an Council (Whitehorse, Yukon). Silverfox holds both a BFA in Visual Art (2015); a BA in Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice from UBC (2013); also an MFA in Interdisciplinary studies from Simon Fraser University (2019). Her artistic practice explores different materials, methodologies, and symbols to create conceptual works. Krystle Silverfox is inspired by Indigenous feminism, transnationalism, de-colonialism, activism, and lived experience.
Krystile Silverfox – Artist Statement:
In 1876 the Indian Act became an official federal law to the Canadian state. The “Indian Act” is a document which has implemented colonial concepts into law – this document restricted Indigenous culture through the Potlatch ban, and has resulted in the loss of language, culture and land. 147 refers to the number of years with Canada’s Indian Act. In this artwork, 147 is the number of porcupine quills imbedded within the Indian Act.
About Teresa Vander Meer-Chasse:
Teresa Vander Meer-Chassé, M.F.A. is a proud Niisüü member of White River First Nation from Beaver Creek, Yukon and Alaska. She is a Dineh (Upper Tanana), Frisian, and French visual artist, emerging curator, and recent graduate from Concordia University’s Master of Fine Arts program in Studio Arts. The artwork she creates with beads, natural materials, and found objects are rooted in understandings of identity and themes of grief, loss, family, community, and relationships. Her visual arts practice is invested in the awakening of sleeping materials and the (re)animation of found objects that are layered in meanings with the deepest understanding being accessible to her kin. While an aspect of her work is a rejection of the colonial gaze, the overall messaging of the work is accessible to all who are willing to be open-minded, reflective, and embracing of experiences outside their own frame of reference.
She was taught to bead by her Grandma Marilyn John, a strong Upper Tanana Elder and residential school Survivor who passed away on July 21, 2023. Teresa’s Grandma was a powerful woman who taught her how to use her voice and stand up for what she believes. Teresa’s First Nation is one of the smallest Nations in what-is-now-called Canada, with only 250 members. White River is an unceded Nation with no historic treaty or modern-day land claim. This impacted the artist’s life and how she interprets the world. Being raised with an underdog mentality has influenced the artist to create highly political and personal artworks.
Teresa began exhibiting her work in 2014 with three solo shows and over 20 group exhibitions under her belt. Teresa has sat on numerous arts committees, advisories, and juries and recently retired from her position on the Board of the Indigenous Curatorial Collective.
Teresa Vander Meer-Chasse – Artist Statement:
Ch’òok’įą was inspired by two photos by Joe Langevin, one of my Great-Grandpa Little John, also known as White River Johnny, and the other of my Great-Great-Grandma Skookum Lucy. Both Little John and Skookum Lucy passed away long before I was born but I was visited by my Great-Grandpa in my dreams as a child. During a Nee’aaneek Upper Tanana language class, my Cousin Joey Benjamin and my Uncle Patrick Johnny, taught my Mom and I the word ch’òok’įą. Through my Uncle Pat’s description of the word, I define it as the “essence of a person or their spirit.” Although this definition does not encompass the breadth of meaning the word holds for Dineh.
During the construction of the Alaska Highway in the 1940s, Beaver Creek was the last stretch of road to be built, connecting the Lower 48 of the United States with Alaska. Surveyors came and, with no negotiations and an obvious language barrier, determined that the international border would run through our Territory and divide my Upper Tanana family. Today, majority of Upper Tanana People reside in Alaska, with very few families residing in Canada. Within three generations, from my Great-Great-Grandma Skookum Lucy to my Great-Grandpa Little John to my Grandma Marilyn John, they all witnessed colonization unfold. From living in the bush to being overwhelmed by an onslaught of newcomers into our Territory, colonization came quickly and impacted our family and communities greatly.
I believe assertion of Territory and sovereignty can be done in everyday ways, including the creation of new artworks. I made this work two years ago already and it remains timeless. The work features silhouettes of Little John and Skookum Lucy with only their hands defined. Their beaded hands represent Intergenerational Knowledge transmission that extends beyond time and space. Like many Indigenous artists that work within family histories, I felt very connected to my ancestors in making this piece. I processed moose backstrap sinew that was harvested within my Traditional Territory by my Mom Janet Vander Meer and her partner Dwayne Broeren, both members of White River First Nation, for this work to mirror the weaving patterns of Little John’s snowshoes. Collective memory and the ability to adapt quickly remains a strength within my family and community.
About Speplól Tanya Zilinski:
Tanya is an Anishinaabe artist, of Aggaamaakwaa Manitoba with family and ancestral ties to Dakota, Cree, Anishinaabe and Huron Wendat Nations throughout Turtle Island’s Plains and Great Lakes regions and is Ukrainian on their father’s side. Their medium is traditional Indigenous loom beadwork and the retelling of oral stories through patterns laid out on beadwork tapestries. They were taught to loom bead at 15 years old by an Elder in their community at Chawathil First Nation. Furthermore, Tanya is connected to the Sto:Lo community in the Tiyt Tribe area through marriage, children and grandchildren, Tanya is also a student of advanced Upper River Halq’emeylemqel, has earned their Advanced Proficiency Associates Certification in Halq’emeyelm through UFV and is School District 78’s certified Halq’emeylem Teacher, currently teaching 700 students, on S’olh Temexw, the language and culture.
Speplól Tanya Zilinski – Artist Statement:
Lo Tselhxwelmexw Ch’toqw’i sqwelqwel:
Loom beaded tapestry sewn onto black wool melton with mother of pearl buttons sewn around the border, beaded with 10/0 glass Czech seed beads. Professionally framed, 41 inches by 29 inches. Tells the story of our family’s history of fishing on the Sto:Lo since time immemorial, the present and into the future. Tells the cultural significance to future generations of the importance of fishing in our family lineage and our cultural heritage.
Sxwoxwiyam X_als qas te X_payelhp:
Loom beaded tapestry sewn onto black wool melton with harvested cedar bark around the edges with abalone shell buttons, beaded with 10/0 glass Czech seed beads. Professionally framed, 41 inches by 29 inches. Tells the Sxwoxwiyam (Stories from the ancient People) of X_als (The Transformer) transforming swiyeqe (a man) into X_payelhp (Cedar tree). Meant for future generations to keep the Sxwoxwiyam and Halq’emeylem language alive.
Thank you to: