Saskatchewan artist Leah Dorion features Métis women in stunning exhibit
Country Wives and Daughters of the Country: Métis Women of This Land at the Affinity Gallery
Visual artist Leah Marie Dorion grew up in Prince Albert, proud of her Métis heritage, but she always wondered why Métis women were never represented in textbooks.
Now, Dorion's doing something about it with her new exhibit of acrylic paintings and crafts.
"I have created paintings and dedicated them to specific Métis women of history," Dorion told Saskatchewan Weekend host Eric Anderson. "These women I felt never really had a visual presence in the history books. There is a lot of oral history of these women and their contributions."
These women were there laying the foundations and not really acknowledged.- Leah Marie Doiron
It's called Country Wives and Daughters of the Country: Métis Women of This Land.
"The Métis community has been so matriarchal, women-centered," she said. "Through the fur trade era, women were so vital. They were the link. They brought the fur trade into this whole different level."
Dorion said history did not acknowledge their very important role.
"There's so few pictures of Métis working and doing these roles on the land, trading, setting up camp," she said. "It's always men, Métis men, or through the lens of western cameraship."
Dorion decided that as a visual artist, contemporary painter and a Métis woman, she could honour traditional Métis art. And all of the beautiful pieces have a story dedicated to them.
"This a picture of a Métis woman hauling winter wood," she said. "She's got her dog. She's got the traditional Métis clothing. She's got her toboggan and she's bringing the wood to the family. Women's work like hauling wood and preparing wood, heating with wood, keeping fires was so big."
She said the painting is dedicated to Catherine Beaulieu Bouvier from Fort Providence, N.W.T.
"She did all of that," Dorion said. "She took her dog team. She delivered mail. She communicated up the river system. Like, this lady was on snow shoes and travelling and she'd pass the men who had the similar contracts. And this Métis woman was an important link in the community."
A self-described specialist in Métis history, Dorion used a combination of oral history with her research skills to bring such history and stories to life.
"I think society doesn't realize how many Métis women built Canada's infrastructure," she said. "And it's so under-known in Canadian society, right from the fur trade to the shifting new economy of agriculture in the west. These women were there laying the foundations and not really acknowledged."
The stunning collection is being shown at the Affinity Gallery in Saskatoon. It runs until Dec. 5.