Reading Betty Bastien was an act of cultural reclamation for Adrian Stimson
Adrian Stimson is an award-winning visual and performance artist whose work invokes themes of identity, history and cultural resilience, focusing on the cruelties of colonization and the resilience of Indigenous peoples. A member of Siksika Nation, Stimson was a tribal councillor for eight years before becoming an artist. In 2018, he was one of eight Canadians to receive the Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts.
On Oct. 5 at 8:30 p.m. (9 NT), Stimson will be featured on the CBC television series In the Making, which takes an in-depth look at Canadian artists.
Below, Stimson shares how Betty Bastien's Blackfoot Ways of Knowing has educated and inspired him as an artist and member of Siksika Nation.
"One of the goals of the colonial project was and is to erase Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing. Many Indigenous people — especially those who do not live close to their First Nations and territories — have difficulty maintaining and understanding their cultural ways. So many elders have passed on and, with them, tremendous amounts of stories and knowledge. While the best way to gain knowledge is to listen to these stories first hand, many books have come forward that beautifully unfold the nuances of Indigenous histories and contemporary being.
"During my graduate research I came across Betty Bastien's book, Blackfoot Ways of Knowing: The Worldview of the Siksikaitsitapi, her journey and generous stories in coming to know her Blackfoot identity through cultural teachings opened up a space for me to compare and contrast my own Blackfoot experience, to come to know and reclaim our teachings and ways of being.
"It helped me as an artist to understand that I am a continuum of Blackfoot being and to further integrate those knowledge systems into the art I create. Cultural reclamation is a constant process, yet it is our responsibility to come to know or ways, to heal and maintain our ways, to rebuild our communities, to share our ways in order to build a better life for us all."