Celebrating Indigenous people through all walks of life is important for Kaitlin Williams, and representation plays a big part.
Cree and Coast Salish from Tsawwassen First Nation artist, Indigenous representation in the media must be inclusive of everyone’s journey whether they are confident participants in their home communities or if they are reconnecting with their culture and traditions.
“Our people have struggled to keep our language, beliefs and ways of living and being intact throughout colonialism and Canada’s history of systemic racism and genocide,” Williams told Daily Hive in an interview. “Representation is a reminder that we are here and we are strong.”
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To help celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day, Williams has created a newly commissioned piece for Daily Hive, titled Strong. And the design elements were purposely chosen to tell an important story.
“Orange is of great importance, referring to “Every Child Matters,” and the thousands of children who were taken from us,” explained Williams. “Although it’s heartbreaking to think of, it’s very important that we continue to honour these children and the devastating cruelties that Indigenous people had to endure over the past century.”
“Red will also be a dominant colour choice, representing the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and 2Spirited movement. Another heartbreaking topic, but a reality our Indigenous communities are continuously facing. Spreading awareness of this crisis is crucial.”
Strong also includes a number of cultural motifs, such as a protective blanket, a feather, a medicine wheel representing healing, and cedar boughs that cleanse the spirit and are used in brushing off ceremonies.
Williams shares that she has been drawing for as long as she can remember, and that she especially enjoys drawing people because no two (with few exceptions) are identical.
“No one has an identical story, and I like to capture the beauty in how different we all are,” said the graphic designer, visual artist and illustrator. “I think people can be really beautiful, and the most interesting subject to draw, in my experience.”
Williams has her own unique story, having travelled to 21 different countries across the world, graduating with a Bachelors Degree in Visual Arts from Emily Carr University, and recently starting work for her home Nation.
“After being away from my culture for so many years, it’s been extremely fulfilling and enlightening,” Williams said. “I’ve struggled to value myself as an Indigenous woman growing up, and had fought against stereotypes and prejudices. I find that reconnecting with my Nation and witnessing strong Indigenous women work and practice their culture proudly has encouraged me to be confident in myself and share my knowledge.
William’s mother is Cree from Swan River First Nation, Alberta, and her father is Coast Salish from Tsawwassen First Nation, BC.
“My family influences me most outside of artists. I think my morals and values are echoed through my work and a lot of that is thanks to my beautiful family.”
National Indigenous Peoples Day is a time of celebration for Williams and her family, and she shared that she is looking forward to sharing a meal with her community and lots of drumming and singing. However, the day is also important to her for another reason.
“National Indigenous Peoples Day is another step to reconciliation,” said Williams. “It’s so touching to see non-Indigenous folks try to learn more about my Nation, and that they want to participate in our events.
“I think it’s another opportunity for non-Indigenous folks to Google some questions they may have, or look up who’s traditional territory you currently reside on. As there are a lot of cultural celebrations going on, I suggest checking out if a local Nation is having an event that you may be able to attend as a respectful visitor.”
While National Indigenous Peoples Day is a time for celebration, Williams said that the day is also about learning and healing.
“We need to be patient and kind with ourselves as Indigenous people,” the artist said. “We are doing our best to live with our generational traumas and it will take time. We need to stay together and love each other, and trust our ancestors are walking with us as we celebrate our culture.”
“The last residential institution closed in 1997, so it wasn’t long ago that our families had their children stolen from them. Children immediately had their hair cut and language silenced. Now we can dress in regalia proudly and honour our children who couldn’t. We need to encourage, inspire and lift one another up.”
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