Home / wîsakâpasiw (the smoke is hurting her eyes)

wîsakâpasiw (the smoke is hurting her eyes)

cyanotype treated jacquard cotton, aluminum chain, handmade tobacco bundle, black lip shell. 8.75×11.25″

While working with pieces that brought up feelings of my grandmother in all her glorious complexity, I feel like I was unable to acknowledge her without facing the trauma she went through as a child and residential school survivor. So much of her behaviour and life choices were the direct result of what she experienced both at St Michael’s and also at the Indian hospital. She internalized a lot of the hatred she faced there and it spilled into every aspect of her life thereafter. The reason we no longer live in our homelands is because the moment she was released she fled to Vancouver Island to get away from such a traumatic place.

I recognized that so much of our experiences and challenges with her were because of what she and our other family members endured, and in honouring her I wanted to heal the past which she had been so beaten down by.

This piece was created by using a print of St Michael’s on clear paper, and exposed in the sunlight. Sewn onto this piece are more of the aluminum chain that I used in wapan, the other black lip shell I was gifted, and a tobacco bundle I created at home using tobacco that was gifted to me from a dear friend while visiting treaty 6 last year. I wanted to put medicine down for all of those kin who have been afffected by the residential school system and Indian hospitals, and I wanted to recognize that it’s impossible to speak on these subjects solely from a personal place when so often our families experiences are interconnected through these horrific experiences.

The title wîsakâpasiw speaks to many different things. For one, I think the feeling of having smoke in your eyes is evocative of the pain I feel when I spend time thinking about these histories. I also think of how-because of this school-my grandmother was against using sage and sweetgrass as medicine, and I imagine that while I smudge and do what I know to heal these wounds, she would meet me with some resistance, initially,