Amy is a beautiful, local Goddess whose medicine speaks through her hand made crystal grids. We are so excited and honored to be carrying Amy's amazing, beautiful grids and crystal grid sets!
Gaia: Hello and welcome Avalon Mystic ;) Please, introduce yourself and tell us about you!
Amy: I have been interested in magic, witchcraft, energy, herbs and crystals since my late teens. I have incorporated all of these into my life on some level over the years. I have about 300 houseplants and consider myself a bit “woo woo” - in the best way! I really enjoy talking about energy, my deep love and knowledge of crystals as well as manifesting with my friends. At the same time I am naturally level headed and determined. A few of my super powers are following through with a plan, getting sh*t done and creating beauty and magic in my life. I was born in Alberta and we moved to California when I was 5, which is where I was raised. During my 20’s I lived in a variety of places, from Kaui, to Victoria to Oregon. In 2006 when my daughter was 5, it felt like it was time to settle down and I chose to do that in Nelson. I have been here ever since. My Mom’s family has been in the Creston valley for almost 130 years and we would visit often, so the Kootenays have always felt like home.
Gaia: How long have you been working with crystals & crystal gridding, and what drew you to that specific practice?
Amy: I have been working with crystals for over 25 years. I started crystal gridding 4 years ago. Crystals have always felt magical and sacred to me. I feel they are beautiful gifts from the Earth with a variety of vibrational frequencies to help us on our path of personal growth. I was drawn to crystal gridding as it allows one to work with both crystals and manifesting in a more powerful, intentional way. I love having a beautiful, visual reminder of what I am calling in on my altar. It has become a practice that I do regularly, usually with the moon cycles.
Gaia: What crystals are in resonance with you right now that you are working with?
Amy: I have spent a lot of time working with smoky quartz lately. I am a total introvert and in the winter I tend to go inward even more. It is my time of year to get cozy and “hermit”. Smoky Quartz is a powerful crystal for shifting energies, old beliefs, patterns and mindset that no longer serve us. This tends to be my focus during the winter months, so smoky quartz feels like a kindred spirit.
Gaia: How did you choose the name ‘Avalon Mystic’? What significance does it have to you?
Amy: Avalon Mystic seemed like the perfect name for my business because it is centered around supporting women to remember their magic and reconnect to their power and intuition. Avalon is a sacred place for Goddess magic, and Priestesses. The legend says that to access this hidden realm, one had to part the mists and the veil between worlds. I read the book, Mists of Avalon, many years ago and have always loved it. This is reflected in my logo as well, with the triple moon symbol and the two women representing sisterhood and the Gemini twins.
Gaia: How did you decide what types of grids to make to offer to the public?
Amy: These grids are intended to help empower women to reconnect to and remember their magic. Based on that premise, I asked myself the following questions:
What could be blocking us from connecting to our magic?
In what ways could we be supported to allow this to unfold?
In what areas of our life do we feel disempowered?
From there I came up with these themes:
1.Financial Abundance (Magnetic Goddess of Abundance)
2.Reclaiming our voice and truth (Speak your Authentic Truth)
3.Reconnecting to our feminine energy and operating less from our masculine side (Invoking the Goddess Within)
4.Loving and accepting ourselves for exactly who we are (Nurturing the Goddess of Self Love)
5.Trusting our intuition and remembering our divinity (Remembering your Divine Light)
6.Reclaiming our power and taking action (Stepping into your Power)
7.Taking care of our physical health and wellness (Radiant Goddess of Wellness)
8.Stepping out of stress and anxiety and inviting calm (Goddess of Serenity)
9.Being in alignment with ourselves feeling bliss and flow. (Goddess of Bliss & Alignment)
For me personally, these are all areas that I continue working on to honor my own femininity and remember the divine magic within me.
Gaia: Are there any other personal spiritual practices you have? Do you mind sharing about them?
Amy: I am definitely a Kitchen Witch, I love working with herbs and plants. Being in nature, honoring the moon cycles, and creating sacred rituals are all part of my spiritual practice. I also do yoga daily and meditate as often as I can.
Gaia: Are there any spiritual philosophies, beliefs or paths you are drawn to that you would like to learn more about?
Amy: When I was little my Grandma would give me long distance reiki healing. She taught me about my grounding cord, drawing cosmic energy down through my body and other energetic practices. I have my second degree in reiki but I haven’t used it in years. I would love to explore this again and deepen my knowledge and experience of these energetic practices. I also love astrology and am currently taking a course to deepening my connection and understanding of it.
Gaia: How do you think you have grown as a person in the last year?
Amy: I’ve grown in so many ways…even just in the practical knowledge of learning so many new skills with this business. I’ve learned how to use a laser engraver, build a website and navigate instagram. Also remembering how resilient and determined I am and expanding my capacity for patience in all ways.
Gaia: What is one thing you would like to grow about yourself in 2023?
Amy: It’s hard to just pick one…lol! I am a lifelong learner and feel like I am always growing and learning in so many ways. Being an introvert, one thing that I personally struggle with is speaking in groups. It is definitely something that I have been working on expanding in myself and pushing past my comfort zone.
Gaia: What is your sun sign and do you feel you relate to it? If you know what your moon and ascendant signs are, do you feel like they reflect in your personality?
Amy: My sun sign is Gemini and I relate to it in that it has the energy of duality, which I see in myself very clearly. I am grounded, practical and logical and I am also very witchy, dreamy and magical. I want to travel the world and at the same time am really happy to just be at home. I can be totally introverted but love a good party. Lol…sometimes I feel like a complete contradiction.
My ascendant is also Gemini with duality that shows up in my personality traits - energetic but relaxed, impatient but reserved enough to not make it a thing. I also love learning, information and communication which are all Gemini traits. I really love having conversations that allow me to see things from another perspective.
I am a Scorpio moon and this is very clear in how I resonate with the witch archetype, feel spirituality deeply, have intuitive gifts as well as being drawn to magic and alchemy. It is my emotional side and I dive below the surface of things, exploring the hidden to bring greater wisdom and empowerment into my conscious awareness. I also require authentic, meaningful connections with the people in my life.
Gaia: Where can we find more information about accessing your products and or services?
You can check out my website www.avalonmystic.com
You can find me on instagram https://www.instagram.com/avalonmysticrealm/
Gaia: What would be in your shopping bag at Gaia Rising?
Amy: I have a deep appreciation and respect for oracle decks and how much insight they give, so those would definitely be in my shopping bag! Beautiful gemstone jewelry and books always call for me too…I love reading and sparkly things, what can I say :)
MEET LUNA VERONICA
Local Astrologer, Witch, Mystic.......
Gaia: Hi Luna! Such a pleasure to be interviewing you and collaborating with you! Why don't we start off by you telling us a little bit about yourself.
Luna: I grew up going to a private Jewish school. The archaic practices of the school felt strange to me, but I always loved prayer and ritual. I realized years later that many of my students and other witchy friends of mine actually came from religious backgrounds. When I was a child I was severely bullied. As a little Leo moon child I was very sensitive to my hobbies or what I was “talented” at. My mom put me into group sports so I truly believed I had no passions or wasn’t good at anything because I hated typical sports and competition in general. In high school I was still bullied. I was an outcast, wearing Doc Martens, baggy t-shirts and giant headphones. I hung out with older people or weird artsy kids, I smoked weed, skipped class, got amazing grades and worked at a hip pizza shop that everyone in my high school ate at. In grade 10 I found out my love was Astrology but had no idea that it would be my future career path! I wanted to get out of there and find what my true calling was. When I got older I made it my mission to find out what I was talented at. I eventually found Circus at the age of 20 and went from learning acrobatics, to finding myself through dance, to doing contortion, aerials & fire.
Gaia: How did you realize you were a spiritually attuned person?
Luna: I’m a Pisces so separating spirituality from my personhood never really felt like it was a possibility - even as a young child at the age of 5 years old I remember looking at my hands wondering how it was all possible. Life always felt magical and mystical. I always trusted my intuition. I always felt God/the Universe/my higher self, something loving and benevolent beside me guiding me to the highest expression of my life. I can’t say that spirituality and me have ever been separate, just over time I realized what it was called and truly believe everyone lived the same way as I did.
Gaia: What prompted you to study Astrology specifically?
Luna: I always resonated with astrology although I didn’t understand it’s vastness. I thought I was just a Pisces. When I found out I had a whole birth chart, (the placement of not just the Sun when I was born but the Moon, the planets, some asteroids & more) my whole life changed. Everything started to make sense. My childhood had a story. My emotions and inner needs were explained. My core personality had a mission and purpose. I understood my challenges or shadow sides. I claimed how I wanted to dress, understanding my physical appearance according to astrology. I was given permission. No one had ever given me permission to be me, but Astrology did. I found a language that I could turn to for answers & guidance. I felt like Astrology was always with me even as a child, I just didn’t really understand what it all meant & why always wanted to talk about it. I’ve traveled all over the world and for some reason no matter what culture, language you speak, or how you were raised, people know their star signs. I remember in grade 10 my social studies teacher brought us into the library to do a presentation on Astrology and I felt high from that class. I was obsessed. I continued to study it with a girlfriend in high school (who was a hipster and looked way too old to be 15) and we use to take notes on the signs, trying to memorize their meanings. When I tried to share my astrological realizations with people I got shut down and I learned to keep quiet. It kept calling me, kept whispering me to come back to it and eventually I couldn’t stop studying it.
Gaia: Did you always identify as a Witch? Did you ever have a hard time embracing the word ‘witch’ because of historical and cultural stigma?
Luna: I found out I was a witch through dance. After exploring spirituality with Astrology (a lot of Astrologers stay in their head and don’t go into their body to EMBODY spirit) I would cleanse myself, put on music, breathe, meditate, journal, pull some cards (this is just what came to me naturally) and I would dance. When I would dance I would start to feel everything in my heart. All my emotional experiences, my happiness, my sadness, my sense of self doubt, my fear, my joy, my love.. everything. As I would dance I would start to cry and I would continue to dance. As I continued to dance things started to get wild. I would scream, or roll around on the ground, I would cry my eyes out but continued to dance... After I felt complete I realized that I was in trance; a ritual state. I realized I was doing witchcraft. Tarot was a natural progression for me, I remember just walking into a metaphysical store like it was nobody’s business and purchasing a deck and a How To book. Astrology felt the same. It was only after my dance that I realized I was a Witch for some reason. I never had a hard time embracing it because once I realized what I was, I realized it was my divine privilege to actually spread the knowledge that reclaiming the word witch was a reclamation of power. Did I ever think I would be a professional Witch and teaching esoteric arts for a living? Definitely not but it also totally makes sense and is in my astrological chart as a potential career.
Gaia: Are there any other personal spiritual practices you have? Do you mind sharing about them?
Luna: Astrology is my number 1 spiritual practice. It completely grounds me into reality, why things are happening the way they are, what I can expect of my day, to my months, to my years, why people behave the way they do, why I behave the way I do, how I can have infinite compassion for human experience.. it literally gives me the answers to any questions I’ve ever had. It’s not really describable, it’s only experienced. Besides Astrology I dance & do ritual. I pray, I spell cast (occasionally), I do manifestation rituals, I’m still new to Herbalism but I am getting more familiar with herbs & kitchen witchery is fun! I love making funky potions like nettle tea lattes while stirring in my intentions for the day.
Gaia: Are there any spiritual philosophies, beliefs or paths you are drawn to that you would like to learn more about?
Luna: Did I mention astrology? Haha honestly it just has everything for me. So If I could understand as much as possible in this lifetime I would feel very fulfilled. I would also like to blend astrology using ritual more - which I think many Astrologers don’t do. For example if you’re wanting to get to know the planet Jupiter, a typical Astrologer would explain the significations of Jupiter in a presentation. That’s great, but what should be accompanied that is a deeper way of looking at this planet. How I teach would be about EMBODYING Jupiter. What would a Jupiter altar look like? What’s on it? What would Jupiter's personality be like? How would you invoke Jupiter? What does Jupiter feel like? What kind of offerings would Jupiter like to receive? Ect. I’m drawn to the occult & Metaphysics in general. The world of dreams & astral travel would probably be #2 on my list but I find it hard to practice lucid dreaming when I want to sleep & rest! Although I studied at a dream school in Guatemala and it was one of the most magical times of my life. I’d also like to deepen my scrying practice (gazing into a crystal ball), harnessing my psychic abilities, communicating with the dead & basically anything esoteric. Tantra is another spiritual practice I am drawn to, as I am in a soulmate relationship and I desire to enter ecstatic states of bliss through connection to the divine.
Gaia: How do you think you have grown as a person in the last year?
Luna: I am growing everyday. Literally. I feel like I’m evolving constantly. It’s amazing. In 2022 my home was still Bali, Indonesia. One day I decided that I was craving the seasons (I thought that was fully not possible after chasing the sunshine my whole life) and after a few years of a dreamy tropical lifestyle, motorbiking daily, drinking coconuts, never cooking or cleaning, not wearing a long sleeved shirt for 2 years.. I decided to come back to Canada. My intuition brought me to Nelson and from all these mystical experiences I had I knew I was going to move here. It was effortless. It was the best decision I ever made. I am unbelievably happy here and the expansion of my own belief systems blow my mind.
Gaia: What is one thing you would like to grow about yourself in 2023?
Luna: I run a multiple 6 figure business as a Witchcraft Mentor & Astrologer. When I type that it feels surreal. When I first launched my business in 2020 it was so successful that I just thought it was going to be going up up and up. I realized that being an entrepreneur is a huge journey of ups and downs. It's been the biggest test of my soul purpose, my trust in the universe & my dedication to my craft. I would like to grow my business and be a famous Astrologer. I am working towards that goal for 2023. Besides business I have a deep desire to continue to expand in love & laugher with my community and friendships, perform circus & dance at festivals, nurture the love of my partner & continue to be the sweetest, most compassionate, inspiring & helpful person I can be.
Gaia: What is your Sun sign and do you feel you relate to it? If you know what your Moon and Ascendant signs are, do you feel like they reflect in your personality?
Luna: Hahahhahaha ASTROLOGY ISN’T EVEN REAL MAN! I’m a Pisces sun (at your spiritual service), Leo moon (I’m here if you need a performer at your next event but please tell me how special and amazing I am because no one knows that I actually just want your love and validation), and Scorpio rising (was that obvious by now?).
Gaia: Where can we find more information about accessing your products and or services?
Luna: The best way to connect with me is on Instagram. My instagram is @luna.veronica.mystic - please be careful of scam accounts who try to DM you asking for a reading. If you want a reading with me please message me first. Or just message me saying you read this article so we can stay in touch! Also please feel free to say hi if you see me walking around nelson! The best way to access my readings, courses on Astrology & Witchcraft is by my Instagram and we can talk about what’s best for you. If you don’t have Instagram you can email me (email@example.com) & I can send you a direct link on my website. OH also! If you like my vibe you’d probably love my podcast! You can search Words are Spells on iTunes and Spotify to listen to my witchy & taboo conversations with incredible people from all over the world.
Gaia: What would be in your shopping bag at Gaia Rising?
Luna: The largest crystal ball in the shop, The Crystal Mandala Oracle deck by Alana Fairchild, the biggest cauldron you have, ethically sourced local sage, astrology jewelry, amber incense, funny witchy stickers & anything that has a moon on it.
Personally, in the last year have I grown? I believe I've warriored up, really trying to bring attention to what is happening on a global level because I've been watching for the last 15 years, and my uncle Splitting The Sky and my other uncle have been fighting this system for the last 50 years. My uncle passed away, Splitting The Sky but they were fighting tooth and nail for how long trying to bring attention to what was transpiring, [to expose] the, pardon my language, the pieces of trash that have hidden all of these technologies that we have at our fingertips to save humanity from a mass extinction and all living beings who live on Mother Earth. So for this year, I really believe I found my courage to really warrior up and stand up to anybody on this planet who represents tyranny and to not have fear.
The thing that I would like to grow about myself in 2022 is to reconnect to the land and to the ceremonies. I have practiced indigenous ceremonies that my family has shared with me, and we have had the privilege of meeting elders across Turtle Island and participating in different ceremonies. I don't want to talk about them, but I do participate in ceremonies, and in 2022, I would like to really reconnect to Mother Earth, get my bare feet on the ground, be surrounded by the forest and nature and really push forward with this project, to work on sustainable building and land development and really being an example for all people on Mother Earth that this is the way that we must go back towards being in touch with Mother Nature, so that we can really work together on completing the Medicine Wheel and unifying the people of the earth to be very conscious of how we walk on the planet, and how our footprint is affecting future generations.
I am an Aquarius, but I'm not so well versed in astrology and the moon, etc. I just listen to some people will share with me, "We're in retrograde so be careful" and different things like that. But I'm not so well versed in astrology.
What would be in my shopping bag at Gaia Rising? Mortar and pestle, some essential oils, a nice moonstone or labradorite necklace for my daughter, and I love collecting miniature curios.
I would like to thank you all for taking the time to listen to my story. Many blessings to you all at Gaia Rising, and I look forward to seeing the story in print. Have a wonderful day. Thank you so much. All my relations. Muskegee Muskwa, Speaks The Truth.
Gaia: You mention in your biography that your reunion with your family opened your eyes to the impacts of colonialism & residential schools on the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. As well as the devastating effects of industrialization from colonialism on Mother Nature. Can you tell you us how this changed you and changed your path in life?
Medicine Bear: My family has been greatly affected from the devastating effects from the residential school system and colonization. I did not know that my grandmother went to the residential school system until I was 28 years old. Like I said, I was disconnected from my Turtle Island family. What happened is when I ran into my uncle, Splitting The Sky and he and I started to take a deep dive into what really happened on Turtle Island. I went down the rabbit hole and I never stopped. I continued to research and research about what happened to my people and swore that I was going to be an advocate. Like I shared previously, I use my artwork as a tool to be able to travel and spread the message. In 2014, I went and did an art exhibit at the United Nations in Geneva for International Women's Day. It was in collaboration with an NGO that was bringing attention to female genital mutilation in Africa. And they wanted to have a Turtle Island artist there to compare the exploitation of the Sacred Feminine of the indigenous woman to the Sacred Feminine of the women in Africa. So I knew this was an opportunity and a big stage for me to be able to go and talk about what we are facing as humanity. I created a piece called "Return of the White Raven," and it was represented that when the white animals begin to return to Mother Earth, that's a signification of the feminine spirit attempting to return to the planet in this time we are in right now. So on the art piece, the white raven is uplifting the women of the earth. There's a spalted birch mask, and it's got ermine fur on the outside of it, white ermine fur, and it represents the elderly women of the earth. And so my message to the people at the United Nations, I said to them, "Do you have grandchildren?" They said yes. I said, "Do you care about your grandchildren?" And most of them said, "Of course I do." And I said, "Well, now I have to call you a liar, because if you cared about your grandchildren, you wouldn't be extracting resources in the most unsustainable manners. You have no care for the future generations."
As Turtle Island people, we are taught to think seven generations into the future. Will there be resources, animals? Will the air be clean? If not, it's unsustainable, and we are unable to do this type of development. I shared with them that us men we think from our minds, and the women think from their hearts. They are the life-givers, they are connected to the cycles of the moon, the water carriers, because the women they carry the babies in their stomach in water. So I said if you don't allow the women to take over the leadership roles of the planet, we are on a downward spiral with no return. And as we look at today, what is transpiring around the planet, it looks like these men did not listen to this message. And this was in 2014.
And what happened on my trip to Europe, it was super eye-opening, I spent eleven months in Europe over a total of three trips. After the show in Geneva. I wanted to go and find out and dig into where this system that came to Turtle Island to attempt to destroy our people through the residential school systems came from. So in my research, I went and found some Celtic people in Germany, and they were sharing with me about genital mutilation the church was doing to the women throughout Europe. They were telling me that the assimilation of their people took place around 200, the year 200. And then when I went and continued to do research, I found out that the first residential schools were in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. So when you look at the type of characteristics that you see in Irish and Scottish society, you're seeing a lot of similarities in the Turtle Island people, the aftermath of what happened in the residential school system to our societies. In Ireland and Wales, we're not painting everyone with the same paintbrush, but they have high rates of domestic violence, abusing children sexually, drinking. And so we see a lot of that as well in our communities, and this is due to the devastating effects to the residential school system. The British and Roman Empires understood exactly what they were doing. They had tested it on the Irish, the Scottish, the Welsh, and English, and then they brought it to Turtle Island when it was fine-tuned, and they took it all over the planet, that same system, to destroy indigenous cultures around the globe. They say that with their system, they can wipe out a culture in four generations and make them forget everything. And I strongly believe that most of the Turtle Island ceremonies have been touched by the church.
If people would like to find more information about the work we are presently working on in regards to sustainable building and land development, they can find more information at kikiwakfps.com. The name of our nonprofit is Kikiwak First Peoples Society. We are trying to pressure First Nations communities to follow the building model and land development in a sustainable manner. I strongly believe that this is the key to the First Nations housing, food, and water crises, and also the health crisis. Because if you give a person a home that has very few toxins in the home, very few volatile organic compounds, because it's made out of earth-based building material, you have a greenhouse attached to the building, which is producing fresh produce all year round, non-GMO, beautiful produce, heating the home using solar passive from the greenhouse. I had a vision of an elder walking from her kitchen, opening a door into her greenhouse to pick fresh produce all year round, and to have clean water. So the stress of not having to worry about bills, because these houses are very affordable, having a lithium ion battery pack that'll last 10 years, and they're generating all their power through solar, wind, or a micro-turbine in a creek, that takes so much stress off of a person, not having to worry about bills, that will help their health. They'll be more connected to the earth, more connected to their food. They're not eating poisonous food. They're connected to their food. And that's just going to help the people to heal. So that's really one of the major projects that we are working on at the moment. And we are going to be implementing this first build this spring, and it's all going to be documented on our website and on our social media platforms as well.
Again, I'm going to share our talk show. It's called "Completing the Medicine Wheel with Grandma, and Speaks The Truth." Our first show is going to be happening in the next week. We're just waiting for grandma to get well. She was a bit under the weather with the flu.
Gaia: Can you tell us more about your Turtle Island name Muskegee Muskwa? What does it mean? Does it express any kind of qualities about your character or fate in this life?
Medicine Bear: My name Muskegee Muskwa, it translates to Medicine Bear, it was given to me in a ceremony. What it means to me is I'm very strongly connected to natural medicines that come from the earth. I work very closely with natural medicines, from mushrooms to different types of algae, astragalus. One of my favorites right now is shilajit. Of course, marijuana tinctures, salves, topicals. See, one of the stories I was told by the Turtle Island elders is that what they used to do is watch the bear. When he'd get wounded, they would go and watch what medicines he would dig up in the forest to heal himself. And that's how they found this Bear Root. It's called osha. The bear is also nurturing, he's a guardian, very protective. So I consider myself a protector, and also a caretaker of the natural medicines that are found on Mother Earth. I do a lot of research in indigenous medicines that are used from tribes around the globe and trying to have them implemented in my life, my family's life, and different people who crossed my path to talk to him about the importance of using these natural medicines, the importance of staying away from genetically modified foods, because of the effects of the pesticides and herbicides on say, the gut flora of the human body, and devastating effects in regards to cancers, etc. So, I try to promote healthy eating, clean water, making sure we know where all of our food comes from so that it's not contaminated with glyphosates.
So that's one of the things that I promote is to make sure that you know where your meat comes from if you're eating meat because conventional meat is full of steroids, antibiotics, and hormones and fed this pesticide-riddled genetically modified feed. So in this time, right now, we're having a hard time as humanity because everybody's being poisoned from [corporations]. It's really horrifying because we know that these natural medicines that we've used for thousands of years can cure our body of different ailments. And the thing is, the body is the most complex machine on the planet if we feed it right, and we give it the right medicines. I believe the body and the mind is the medicine.
Gaia: You are talented in so many ways. You of course you make beautiful jewelry, which we carry here at Gaia Rising, but you are also a carver. Can you tell us what kinds of art you create in your wood carving? Between jewelry making & wood carving do you find you prefer or resonate with one of them more than the other? Do you feel that you express different things in one medium over the other?
Medicine Bear: I really enjoy making wood carvings and bone carvings, but I just can't get paid for them. Maybe one day I'll be able to break into that type of market and have a demand for my wood carvings because they're very time-consuming, so I don't carve too much wood these days. I mostly focus on jewelry. The reason why I like doing jewelry so much is you're able to finish a piece in a much more timely manner. My average piece is say about ten hours to create. There are some jewelry pieces that I've worked on that have taken hundreds of hours, which are still sitting on my wall because I can't sell them, including my woodcarvings. So I prefer to do jewelry these days, and I really like exploring different techniques with jewelry making at the moment, and differently engraving techniques, but I really do love and miss wood and bone carving. I first started wood carving in 2006, and then I began creating jewelry in 2010.
Gaia: Which traditional indigenous styles of art influenced your work?
Medicine Bear: Now we're gonna go back to the story of my life at the beginning. I was disconnected from my indigenous family at a very young age. I was involved in powwow dancing and being around my culture, etc, at a young age but at about seven, I was disconnected. At sixteen years old, I was lured into a gang. We had a very big problem with First Nations gangs in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I'm not going to get into much detail about that aspect, but the nightmare lasted thirteen years of my life. An incident had happened, and I did not want to hurt anybody, and I had called my mom and said, "Mom, I need help." At the time, I was a drug addict, involved in gang and drug activity, and I just wanted to get out. I had had enough. So I contacted my mom in British Columbia and asked her if I could come to her home. She told me as long as you don't bring any of your activity or drinking and drugs to my home, I was welcome. So I had reunited with my First Nations family at 28 years old. They took me to a sweat lodge and then to another ceremony.
At that ceremony, I met one of my carving teachers. He said, "I know of your mom's artwork, and you have this inside of you. So I'd like you to come and start carving with me at my house. You're going to move in with me." And I thought, well, this is crazy. I told him I failed all my art classes. I never could draw a stick man. So he told me, like I said, "You have this inside of you. I know of your mother's artwork." So I went to his house and he was a nuu-cha-nulth man. So again, my carving teacher was nuu-cha-nulth and from Squamish Nation. I'm not going to get too much into his history, but he's a Pacific Northwest Coast carver/designer, and he took me under his wing and I started sanding. The first step was sanding. And then when I talked to one of my teachers later and told him about this, he told, he says, "This is exactly what a master would do when they teach you." So it's sanding first. You got to learn and know the grain of the wood. So I first started off as a wood carver. So, it was sanding, lots of sanding. And then the next step was painting. I didn't start carving for quite some time. It was probably about four or five months before I started carving. So it was sanding and painting, sanding and painting. And then I started to carve and I sold my first couple of wood carvings pretty quickly after I first started carving. So about five months in, I sold my first pieces, and I thought, "Oh my god, this is my ticket to a new world." Because all I knew previous to that--I didn't have an education, I had a grade nine education--was the world of hustling and that's the only world that I had known, and I always thought that that was the only path that was chosen for me. So I was really grateful to have this opportunity and a new shot at life.
My daughter's name is Desiree, and her Turtle Island name is Dances With The Butterflies. I forgot to mention my Turtle Island name. I carry two of them. It's Medicine Bear and the other one is Speaks The Truth.
During that time I was hanging out with my uncle as well, his name is John Boncore, and he goes by Splitting The Sky or Dac. His Turtle Island name is Dacajaweiah, very famous environmental and social justice activist. And I actually just watched a documentary last night and it was one of the most horrifying things that I've ever witnessed. It was the Attica prison revolt. I couldn't finish watching the last fifteen minutes of it. It was so horrifying, but my uncle was was one of the people who who started the Attica prison revolt because, the stories he told me is, they were taking black men and hispanic men and indigenous men and making them fight to the death in the basements, and they were betting on these fights and it was like a Fight Club. And there's a whole bunch of different horrifying things that my uncle had shared with me but my uncle was highly instrumental in the American Indian Movement in the late 1970s. And he was involved in the anti-nuclear movement. He was the one who attempted a citizen's arrest on George Bush. He had evidence showing that the whole Bush administration was involved in war crimes, leaving depleted uranium bullets all over Iraq after the first Gulf War. He was part of the 911 truth movement. So my uncle was very instrumental in sharing with me about the geopolitics that are happening all around the globe. And so what I had done is I decided that I was going to use my artwork.
I went to the Northwest Coast Jewelry Arts program at the Native Education College in Vancouver. At the time I was carving with legendary master carver Norman Tait. He's from the Nisga'a territory and what he used to say to me was, "You better start doing jewelry. If you don't, you're gonna end up starving, because you're so slow of a woodcarver." It was taking me 200 hours to carve a mask. So what I did is I had my four year old daughter with me at the time. I was a single parent and I was raising her and I was staying with my auntie in in Abbotsford. I carved my first six pairs of copper earrings, and I went to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society. When I went there, one of the elders, she said, "How much do you want for those earrings?" and I said, "I'll take $20 a pair," and she goes, "I'll buy them all."
When she bought them all, it was $120, and I was living in poverty at the time. A light bulb went off in my head, and I was like, "Oh, my God, I can go and get groceries." So I went and I bought half worth of groceries and half worth of copper and a couple pieces of silver, and I went home and I was like, "Oh, my God, this is my ticket. This is my real ticket to a new life." Because prior to that, I was carving a totem pole, and I had $0, and I was very close to going back to drug dealing. I told myself, I was like, "I can't do this no more. We don't have no money. We're living in poverty. And I was planning on setting up a marijuana phone to sell marijuana in Vancouver because I knew how to set up these lines previously, and I thought, "You know what? That's what I know. I have to go back to it." And thank God, I didn't end up falling prey to it, and actually, to this day, I've been drug and alcohol-free for about 12 years straight, but pretty much 15 years. When I found out about my daughter, I knew that there was no other option for me because we ended up losing her mom and I raised Desiree by myself, and I knew that there wasn't another option, that I had to stay sober for my daughter.
So what ended up happening is after I sold those pieces of jewelry, I would go into the parks every day in Abbotsford and I would carve, and I remember I would lift my head up and see what Desiree was doing and make sure she was okay. There was a water park and there was a playground that she would play in, and I would set up all my carving stuff on a picnic table in the park. And I would just sit there and carve all day long, all day long, and then I would do my polishing at my auntie's in the backyard. And I also had a bunch of high-end wood carvings at that point that I wasn't able to sell, and then I ended up selling the high-end wood carvings. We moved to Lytton, British Columbia where we made our home. I didn't want Desiree to go to school in the Lower Mainland because I knew that it wouldn't be a good atmosphere. I wanted to take her to a First Nations school and just move to a smaller community. So we moved to Lytton, BC.
During that time, I had been involved in different activism. In 2010, prior to the Winter Olympics, we had a show called Make It Real, and we were trying to share with the world what was happening to the Turtle Island people here, with the third world conditions across the country, boil water advisories, housing conditions, etc. We figured that the media of the world would be in Vancouver at that time, so it was a perfect opportunity for us to share with the world what was really happening here on Turtle Island. We refer to North America and Mexico as Turtle Island, but we were focusing on the northern region, on Canada. And so what happened was the art show was called "Make It Real," the fake vs the real. One of the nights we had was the "Five Ring Circus," we called it. It was the way the Olympics were portraying the indigenous people by dancing them on stage, showing to the world that everything was fine and rosy over here, when in all reality it's not. So we wanted to share the conditions that were happening. Then we had a night of talking about the fake vs the real in regards to art, how we're having knockoff First Nations Turtle Island art forms being made in China, knocked off from all around the world, beadwork coming in from Eastern Europe, etc., and how it's greatly affecting our economy as First Nations artists because one of our last resources that we have left is our artwork. So we wanted to share with the world that. We had a night talking about the fraudulent issues in regards to the Norval Morrisseau paintings, then another night we had talking about environmental and social justice issues. So at a very young age, when I started off my art career, I was involved in environmental and social justice issues.
After that show, I just continued trying to bring attention to the the world about these issues that we face as Turtle Island people, and I use the sale of my artwork to travel back and forth from Europe, and all across Canada to pipeline protests. We did a t-shirt line one time. We were called the Peaceful Warriors Unite. And we did a collaboration with a European street artist that I had teamed up with, who was also an environmental, social justice peaceful warrior. So what we did is we teamed up and we made these t-shirts, and we pitched in $6,000 each, and we agreed with each other that we didn't want money connected to the t-shirts, so we were giving them away for free or by donation to help with gas because I was traveling at the time, trying to bring attention to Bill C-51, and the overreach of the Canadian government, issues that the First Nations people were facing in regards to resource development and extraction in their lands.
We had this one t-shirt, it was called "shellfish." It had a shell emblem on it with a man fishing, and the fish that he caught had a shell emblem in the eye. And on the back of the t-shirt, it said "No Enbridge Pipeline," so we were bringing attention to oil spills and how the leaking into the environment was devastating our watersheds, etc. We were talking about mining in our territories. In my traditional territory, we have the best yellowcake on the planet, which is used to make nuclear bombs and nuclear reactors. And those mining companies are owned by foreign multinationals. And what happens is they a lot of times these mining companies will set up, they'll leave a barren wasteland, they'll claim bankruptcy, and they'll leave tailing ponds in our territory to leak till the end of time. It goes into our watersheds. In my territory, we also have major hydro development, when they're flooding out the lands, when the water recedes is leaching mercury into the water which goes into the fish, then moves up the food chain into the humans. So in a lot of our First Nations communities, we have elders who are shaking uncontrollably from mercury contamination, because that's our food supply. So really, even up till present day, I have been strongly involved in social justice and environmental law activism, and I will never stop until we complete the Medicine Wheel. That's a prophecy that we have talked about in different people around Turtle Island. We were given the original instructions, all the races of Mother Earth, on how to live in unison with all living beings who walk on Mother Earth.
There's these four tablets and on these tablets, like I said, were the original instructions from Creator, which I believe are people from Star Nation. So they left the instructions on how we were to live in harmony with all living beings, and we forgot our way. So the prophecy is very long, but just to make it a short and sweet version, what we are trying to do is now we must complete this medicine wheel. We must bring the races of Mother Earth back together to work in unison, to break down religious barriers and borders, to implement technologies that have been buried by the elite who want to be greedy, to extract all the oil and different resources that they've already begun. And they've buried these patents. In my view, we must hold them accountable immediately. And we must begin to implement these technologies, both old and new, so we can reverse the devastating effects that we have caused on Mother Earth. I strongly believe with these technologies that we can remove all the excess carbon that they claim is in the atmosphere. We can remove all of the excess carbon in five to ten years by implementing these new technologies. We are starting a talk show. It's called "Completing the Medicine Wheel with Grandma and Speaks The Truth," and we are going to be talking about solutions that we can come up with in regards to these technologies and how we must implement them now to save our future generations and all living beings that walk on Mother Earth from a mass extinction, because we are on the verge of it now.
Gaia: Tell us a bit about yourself. What's your background?
I was reading on your website that you are Asiniskawiyiniwak (Rocky Cree) First Nations. Can you tell us more about your lineage, your band and what region of Turtle Island you come from?
You also mention that you come from a long line of artists and you mention your Mother, also known as Half Moon Woman as one of them. Can you tell us more about her and her influence on the art that you create now?
Medicine Bear: I am from Thompson, Manitoba, which is very far north of Winnipeg. My ancestry is Cree, and I come from a place called Pukatawagan and a place called South End Reindeer Lake. My grandmother was from the White Bear Clan, and my grandfather was from the Wolf Clan. I am also of German and Swiss descent. My grandparents migrated from Germany in the late 1800s, and they were farmers in Saskatchewan. My other grandfather migrated to Canada. He was Swiss and German and he married a Cree woman.
I was brought up in northern Manitoba, and I was sharing a story with my nephew about how we used to play in the forest all day, every day. We were mischievous boys, like most. We built forts. We made fires, snowboarded, and played hockey. We trapped animals, hunted and fished. I come from a long lineage of First Nations artists. My grandmother, Lady of the Thunderbirds, was a very special lady. I'll share a little bit about her story.
Farley Mowat, the famous Canadian author, decided it would be a good idea to steal my family's stories and tell them in his own light. He answered an ad in the Winnipeg newspaper from a man by the name of Dr. Francis Harper, who worked at the Smithsonian out of Washington, DC. He was traveling on the train from The Pas, Manitoba to Churchill, Manitoba, and he overheard a man talking about his daughter being lost in minus thirty to minus forty conditions for eleven days. That was my grandmother. She was traveling with her brothers on dog sleds. She had her dog team in between their two dog teams because there was a white-out and they wanted her to stay in the middle. But when they arrived home, she was nowhere to be found. They didn't know what to say. They were scared to go in and tell their dad. His name was John Schwader. They finally got the courage to go into the cabin and tell their dad that Ilsa was nowhere to be found, and that they needed to go look for her right now. Their dad said, "You can't go out right now. It's too stormy out there. We gotta wait til the storm clears."
Once the storm cleared they went looking for her but they couldn't find her. Everyone in the neighborhood was searching for my grandmother. What happened was she knew that the caribou were going a certain direction. They lived in a land that they called the Land of the Little Sticks because it was the edge of the treeline on the Northwest Territory-Manitoba border at a place called the Windy River Trading Posts. (First it was Hudson Bay Trading Post, and then it was a Revillon Fur Trading Post, which was a French fur trading company). And so she was separated from them. Now she had to let go of her dogs, because she knew if they got hungry, they would turn on her. And of course they wouldn't listen. So she had to let the dogs go because she had no food to feed them. Farley Mowat in his fantasy-full story said that my grandma had killed the dogs and ate them. That was in his book, People of the Deer. there's also parts of our family story in Never Cry Wolf, Lost in the Barrens, and No Man's River, the last book that he wrote where he used everybody's names, and he slandered my family and told a bunch of fantastical lies that he had spent eighteen days with my family with Dr. Francis Harper, because of what happened on the train after the man had heard the story of my grandma being lost.
By the way, my grandma was found on day eleven by a man named Ragnar Johnson, who was a legendary trapper/hunter in the northern regions of Manitoba. Anyway, if you want more information on it, you can contact me about it (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Farley Mowat and Dr. Francis Harper said to my grandfather, "Would you be able to take us to find some animals?" because they were on an expedition to find animals for examples in the Smithsonian. There's a black wolf in the Smithsonian, probably in the archives now, that my family hunted and sold to the Smithsonian. But what they did is they asked if they could take them up, and my grandfather and my uncle said, "Sure, we can take you up." They were master hunters, so during those eighteen days that Farley Mowat spent with my family, he was taking notes and jotting down different things he was hearing from their stories in his journal. Then he took those notes and he created the stories in his books and stole our family stories and we've never seen a penny.
My grandmother survived that ordeal. They were going to chop her feet off, because her toes were all black from frostbite. And the doctor had said, "We're going to chop her feet off." My grandpa said, "You're not going to chop her feet off," and they use this salve that my great grandmother had--she was a pure Cree woman. She created this salve and put it on her feet, and then my grandmother was able to walk about six months later. My grandfather said, "She'll crawl the rest of her life. We're not taking off her feet." And my grandma drove around in her car till she was 87. She died, I believe it's three years ago now. And she was a legendary elder in northern Manitoba. She was an elder at all of the elementary schools as well as the University of the North and the high school. And they would get her to come and do beadwork with the children and tell stories about her "Farley Mowat adventures" or whatever. They wanted her to tell the true story and set the record straight about what had happened to her when she was lost. And she was also a master seamstress making mukluks and moccasins and gauntlets and all that kind of stuff. And so, each of the children who went to the University of the North, they were able to go with my grandma every Wednesday night and work on their pair of moccasins. They got all the material to make that. So my grandma she sold her wares all around northern Manitoba. Everyone knew of my grandma and her work and her stories.
Her favorite hangout was A&W. She met with her friends every morning for toast. She just had rye toast and coffee and she would save her crust for the ravens and the same pack of ravens followed my grandma for years. And my sister actually just wrote a book, which is going to be published very shortly here, setting the whole story straight with my grandmother.
And my mom, her name is Half Moon Woman. Her English name is Pat Bruderer, and her Turtle Island name is Half Moon Woman. My mom is a famous First Nations artist. She's the caretaker of an ancient art form called birch bark biting. She has taught over 40,000 children to date. She's been teaching in schools for over thirty years. In the history of the Turtle Island people, her art form is the most elaborate of the birch bark biting artists that we've been able to see in archives and museums and modern day birch bark biters. Initially birch bark biting was used for the cultural and historical preservation of historical and cultural events, hunting and fishing maps. They also used it for creating beadwork patterns. And they would have competitions, who could bite the most elaborate birch bark biting. They also used it as a teaching tool. So they would keep the birch bark bitings. Someone would be the caretaker of them in the village and then they'd be using it like a textbook, so they'd be like holding the birch bark bitings because it's one single layer of birch. So they would hold that birch bark biting up to the fire or up to the sun, and then the children would have an easier time to remember the historical document because they would have an image to go along with the oral history in their mind. So it was used as a teaching tool.
My mom is among just a handful of ladies that are left practicing this art form today. In our traditional territory, of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation--that's the nation that I belong to--the ladies in the region were very well known for being birch bark biters. And of course, when contact happened, it started to die out after the effects of the residential school system and colonization. And now my mom says that the reason why no one has contacted her and said, "Hey, they've picked it up" is because children these days. She said, food preservatives, additives, sugar, video games, television have taken away the children's ability to concentrate, and to focus on doing certain tasks because, for instance, peeling the birch to one single layer is very, very tedious, time-consuming and takes a lot of patience. Nevermind the biting process, just the preparation process. So she said the children do not have the attention spans that they did prior to all of these different additives in the foods, and chemical and environmental toxicities.