Medicine Bear Arts Interview

Posted on January 27, 2023 by Dannika Soukoroff

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 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. 

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