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Safe Spaces



"Ikamotsiipohtoo Iitai’nssimao’p – Bring to safety, where one plants


When I think of a safe space, I think of my home studio garden, HSG, three in one, one in the same. My HSG is located on the Siksika Nation, in an area called North Camp, western bow valley corridor. My HSG is the former Old Sun residential school garden, the poplar wood trees were planted during WWI, in a tear drop shape, to enclose the garden, a garden that my own father would remember planting and harvesting through the years he attended. It’s ironic as the residential school system was created to eliminate Indigenous peoples, the garden itself nourishes life yet in the context of residential schools, they were intended to feed the schools and the children, used as child labour became the gardeners. My father hated potatoes to the day he died because of this very garden. The irony now is this garden is my safe space, it is a testament to the passing of time and societal changes. The poplar trees themselves are coming to the end of their lives, yet with their decay comes the advancement of other trees and shrubs, especially the Manitoba maple trees and choke cherry bushes. This is a unique area as it has become a wildlife refuge and a bit of a sanctuary. It is home to numerous bird species throughout the year, bush and jack rabbits, the gopher empire, badgers, weasels, coyotes, deer, and the odd bison (that’s a story in itself).

 "I am a full-time self-employed artist who decided to return to my First Nation, not only to my childhood home but to set up and run my studio business. I converted my double car garage, which is attached to the house into my studio, then added a green room to grow veggies and plants in the winter months. It was my sanctuary, a place where my creative energies are focused, experimented with and come to reality. I say “was” as this past summer I had to tear it down due to mold, mice, and faulty construction, it was a shock yet necessary. As I type, the new studio is under construction with the move in date scheduled for the new year.

 "The combination of having my home, studio and garden situated in the same place has become my sanctuary and safe space. For me, I define a safe space as being one where I feel pretty sure that I will not experience any Intellectual, emotional, spiritual, or physical harm. I am a residential school survivor, I know very well the damage racism and genocide causes, sadly our society and world still have not figured out how to stop these damaging human traits.

 "My home is my nest, it is where I can let down my guard and just be, I have surrounded myself with the things I love, mostly art. I have said before that museums and galleries are my churches, where I find solace, in filling my home with art, it is my own museum/gallery where I can sit and contemplate life and the acts of creation. My studio is my creative space filled with the tools I require as a maker. It is a space where I can just go and sit and stare at a blank canvas or pile of clay. It is where I reach into the ether and grab those energies and ideas that become real and alive through the materials I use; it is a space of thought and interaction. My studio is a physical extension of myself, it is a sacred space where I can be who I am or who I might be. It is the womb of my mind. My Garden is an act of solidarity with the natural world, where I get to understand natures rhythms and do my best to work with them. Many years ago, I read 'Derek Jarman’s Garden', Jarman being an extraordinary gay film director who created a garden at his cottage at Dungeness, England. It shifted the way I looked at gardens, that they are an extension of us in collaboration with the flora and earth. While I have been focused primarily on food security, meaning creating and experimenting with various foods and growing techniques, I have also been like Jarman, artful in design and expanding notions of what gardens are or can be. Over the years and I include my husband Happy, together we have not only created vegetable beds, but flower gardens, ponds, and several art installations. It is the idea that everything we do, we do artfully, in essence living artfully.

 "Ikamotsiipohtoo is the Blackfoot word for 'bring to safety'. Iitai’nssimao’p is the Blackfoot word for “where one plants”, My home studio garden is the place where I plant the seeds of safety, that nourish and sustain a way of life that I wish to attain, one that is in harmony with the earth, the flora and fauna and my fellow human beings."


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