Community Response Art to Residential Schools

On June 7th and 9th, the students and staff of Kateri School participated in a school wide mural to honor the children found in Kamloops, the children yet to be found and themselves. Both on-site students and remote learners were invited to either place a hand print on the canvas or submit a handprint to be sealed onto the painting. Kanienkeha’ka First Nations Art Therapist and 3rd Generation Residential School Survivor, Megan Kanerahtenhá:wi Whyte (MA, ATPQ, RCAT),  invited each class from nursery to grade 6 to either sit or stand in circles in the outdoor classroom by the school garden space. Together, we talked about Residential Schools within Canada and within our own community in Kahnawake. In this conversation, each child was reminded that they mattered and they were loved. Each staff member, who once were children as well, were reminded that they mattered and they were loved. Whether child or adult, every participant was either a great grandchild, grandchild and child of a Residential School or Indian Day School survivor. Some staff were Indian Day School survivors. This was an important arts-based response to the historical trauma of Residential Schools across Turtle Island, from Kamloops to the traditional lands of the Kanienkeha’ka in Quebec. It created a sense of community across the generations, which is integral to creating cultural safe spaces for Indigenous people. The paintings will be permanently displayed at Kateri School in Kahnawake, which was historically a Day School.  

Art has the power to heal. 

To dialogue. 

To build bridges. 

To connect. 

#everychildmatters

Two-Eyed Seeing Workshop: Building cultural safety and reconciliation in community spaces

Although open only to the Creative Arts Therapies students at Concordia University today, this workshop aims to develop networks, approaches and perspective for working with and as BIPOC communities. It looks at the foundations of Two-Eyed Seeing, a perspective that embodies multiply ways of knowing. It aims to create spaces of reconciliation (or rather relationship building) between communities, using both Western and Indigenous knowledges. This acknowledges the role of oppression and the importance of empowerment, which can be applied to other BIPOC communities as well.

If interested in hosting this workshop for your organization, please feel free to contact me through the contact page.

Virtual Art Hive Launch

An Art Hive is a community studio that welcomes everyone from Kahnawake! Come once or come ten times, you will be welcome every time.

Please contact me (mkwarttherapy@gmail.com) to register.

Billboard for the Kateri Memorial Hospital Center

The purpose of this mural is to honor the tireless work of the staff at the Kateri Memorial Hospital Center. From frontline workers to those who work in the background to ensure the hospital as a whole runs with both structure and humility, their ongoing effort to support its people truly reflects the concept of community. During the pandemic, the staff have been diligent to delivery safe services with the continued amount of care they have always brought to Kahnawake. 

In this image, I have painted two medical staff who are smiling and extending a warm welcome to our community. Both are wearing beaded masks made by our own people and one holds a burning sage bowl. From the smoke of the sage comes good energy, including the iconic rainbow colours we have come to associate with resilience during this pandemic seamlessly woven into the smoke. Behind them is a sunset with both the sun and the moon-cycle, to represent both the cultural teachings of transition and change as well as to demonstrate the around the clock dedication of our staff. Along the horizon line are all the staff standing together. This is to represent the community of people involved within the health system, who together hold us during this pandemic and always. From their feet run roots to the bottom of the mural because their devotion is rooted in the love from our ancestors, regardless of where we come from.

Written at the bottom is the word Entewatatse’nia:ron which translates to “we will preserve”. The entire concept embraces the work of the staff who ensure that we will overcome this pandemic as a community. 

I have so much gratitude for being invited to be part this project.

https://fb.watch/1AoP9G1x-b/

Video Archive: Art and Mindfulness for Children and Teens

This 20-minute video (produced by the First Nations Education Council) leads you through an exercise for children in grades 4/5/6 that teaches both perspective drawing as well as regulation during frustration. It touches upon cultural spring time themes as well as visualization.

Image

Online art therapy services

Mindfulness for Children and parents

Within scheduling, it can be important to make time for holistic self-care. During the morning, I dedicate time to exploring daily self-care by using medicine wheel teachings. Each sector influences the other.

For instance, if we have negative thoughts, it may affect our emotions. We may feel anxiety, shame, doubt etc. These may the influence our bodies, feeling nausea, exhaustion and headaches. All of these impact our spiritual health, disconnecting us from each other, ourselves and the land.

Graphic made by the Anishinaabe Bimaadiziwin Cultural Healing and Learning Program

Physical: We take daily walks outside and follow online yoga videos (my youngest loves cosmicyoga on youtube). Dress for the weather (we are in a transitionary spring climate that shifts from -13 degrees to +16). Dress for the weather. There are so many teachings the land can offer (snow, rain, sun, wind). We take care of our bodies with nutrition and gardening. Yoga practices breathing and creating mindfulness is a good step to learning self-regulation.

for parents: take time for yourself to also walk with them or to follow your own exercise program. Model physical activity, which may inspire your children to do the same.

Mental: We make time to talk about our thoughts in the world, which naturally unfold when we make art and play together. The children have the opportunity to share their fears or musing about the future. We have made art and took time to process them. Additionally, by doing STEAM activities, they are exercising their executive functions like problem-solving, adapting and reflecting.

for parents: take time to talk to your support network and process your thoughts. Facetime, phone calls, text or online forums to practice safe social distancing while maintaining connection with others. Do activities for yourself too, whether that be work, reading or keeping a daily log. Journals do not have to be just for teens, we can use them too! Jstor has also made their database accessible to the public so nows the time to explore that one thing you have always been interested in:

Open-Access JSTOR Materials Accessible to the Public

Emotional: We have a dedicated time to explore emotional expression. Using art and a daily art journal (which we have always had), we make time to explore feelings. Modeling that it is safe to look at all our feelings, even if we are uncomfortable, is helpful for children to learn how to express. Be there for them and remember to be the secure base for them. If you feel activated, name it for yourself and allow yourself to be there. Feelings are safe.

For parents: Again, stay in contact with your social networks. It is ok to show vulnerability to children because it shows them that they can be vulnerable too. But be mindful of how we choose to regulate. Make art, breathing exercises, exercise.

Here are some free mindfulness apps: insight timer; smiling mind; stop, breathe & think; UCLA mindful; 10% happier

Spiritual: Each morning, we begin with a smudge and the Ohenton Kariwatehkwen (thanksgiving address). We practice spiritual connection when we connect with each other and the land.

For parents: spirituality does not have to mean religion. It can mean connection.

Although these are separated into categories, they often interconnect–especially when making art or spending time in nature.

 

How to make a COVID-19 schedule

As an art therapist and a parent, this suggestions come from both research and experience. Please note that there is no one-size fits all approach but feel free to use any suggestions that makes sense for your family.

I began with a basic structure, inviting my family to contribute to setting expectations and daily themes. This way, they become part of the process and their own learning. This can give children a sense of empowerment and self-esteem in knowing that they are heard. Self-esteem is critical to learning. If a child feels good about themselves, they will be more open to new information and challenge.

This is an example of our schedule. Although it seems rigid, it is not. There are times where playing outside takes an extra hour or times when the learning activity goes over by 30 minutes. There are times when math feels too much and we do a limited amount of time. I encourage play and flexibility and to follow the flow of the children. The age range is 12 and 7, so the schedule shifts based on their developmental needs as well.

Structure can help them to feel normalcy, stability and self-organization during a time in the world where everything feels unstable. It gives them a container to feel what they need to feel and to work through it safely with an adult.

IMG_3893Setting up the learning environment is also important to create structure.We chose a place in the house to dedicate to the “learning spot”. They gathered the materials they thought they would need and know where to go when it’s time for research or math games.

Although learning objectives can be important, remember to have time for unstructured play. Children learn through experience and we as parents can create teachable moments as we explore together. Connect, be with, and listen.

They too are grieving the losses that come with isolation. They have lost their friends; their school structure; their routine; their freedom; their sense of security in the world. Loss can often evoke complex feelings, which can come alive at different points in the day. Be gentle with them. Know that behavior challenges will be normal or that narratives of isolation or disease may come up in their play. Children process and express information differently, so when we are cued into to being a part of their play we may catch those moments to process with them.

Be there when they are challenged, encourage effort and model problem-solving. We do not have to be experts but we can create spaces of learning.

Foraging our Paths Community Art Work

From February 22nd to 24th, Canadian Roots Exchange and its partners invited me to facilitate a 3-day emergent sculpture as part of the Foraging Our Paths youth conference. Participants were Indigenous and non-indigenous who attended came from coast to coast. They were invited to bring objects from their homeland together create a group sculpture as part of the dialogue around environmental violence and land relations.

Gathering at 4th space to explore found objects

Hosted by Concordia University’s 4th space, local resources were donated for the project including garbage, recycling and other found objects. Participants were invited to explore the objects and use them to tell a story about their relations to the land. Some came in with ideas and others used the materials to speak for them. All objects were secured using different glue-based fixtures. 

Youth from across Canada, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, making art and community to discuss the same issues.

Over our time together, conversations emerged around natural resources, climate change, capitalism and the role of each of us in building bridges to a healthier world. Many brought their experiences with infrastructures and some brought their innocence. Together we were able to bridge community through land.

These conversations came a critical time, when communities across the nation were coming together to stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people in their stance against the Canadian pipeline proposed to run through their community. In a long line of history of land removal in this way, barricades and teachings went viral around indigenous history and the importance of speaking for the land.

#cre #survivance2020

APTN Skindigenous Mini-Documentary Series

As part of APTN’s season 2 series called Skindigenous, I was invited to participate in a mini documentary about art therapy in First Nations communities.

In our conversation, we explored the role of multigenerational trauma and the impact of cultural restoration in community health. There was focus on identity exploration and the power art-making lends to its creator to deconstruct and reconstruction what it means to be Indigenous.