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Wisdom: Indigenous artist teaches students how to bring Ojibway culture, traditions and teachings alive through art

Longlac students had the opportunity to learn unique painting techniques, the significance and history of the Woodland Art form with Ojibway artist Patrick Hunter.

LONGLAC -- Talented two-spirited Ojibway artist Patrick Hunter from Red Lake, made a special visit to Longlac’s Marjorie Mills, Public Elementary School.

He was invited to participate in an art workshop with Grade 6, 7 and 8 students. During his time with the students, they learned unique painting techniques, the significance and history of the Woodland Art form, and the importance of mental health and healing through art. He specializes in fine and digital artwork and designs from his Ojibway roots with the intent to “create a broader awareness of Indigenous culture and iconography”.

Hunter’s art session reflected key Indigenous teachings, culture, traditions and history. Throughout the process of introducing students to his specific art form techniques, Hunter incorporated the 7 Grandfather Teachings. For Indigenous culture and life experiences, the 7 Grandfather Teachings are a fundamental guide for living. They serve as a reminder of the history of Indigenous people in Ontario and symbolize new connections, relationships and opportunities.

The Seven Grandfather Teachings are a set of Anishinaabe guiding principles that have been passed down from generation to generation to guide the Anishinaabe in living a good life in peace and without conflict. These teachings have been adopted by many Indigenous organizations and communities as a moral stepping stone and cultural foundation. The Seven Grandfather Teachings are among the most widely shared Anishinaabe principles. These teachings provide multiple ways in which one can enrich their life while living in peace and harmony with all creation.

Hunter took a specific art technique and amalgamated it with these 7 Grandfather teachings which eventually became the theme used by each student in their own art creations.

Margorie Mills Grade 6, 7 and 8 teacher Lea Mask, was asked how she learned about Hunter and how his visit to her classroom came to be. She shared how she had heard about him and the fact that he had designed the jersey for the Canadian Curling team, who participated in the Beijing Olympic Games.

 After looking at his website, she learned that Hunter offered art workshops. Mask envisioned a specific learning goal she wanted to incorporate in the art program she was teaching her class and came to the realization that Hunter’s workshop would facilitate this learning goal perfectly. She stated that, “I was looking for ways in which they could see themselves in what they were learning.”

The workshop session with Hunter was booked and he joined her class, virtually in early April. In preparation for this art session, the students were required to choose three bright colours. Mask’s class was shown a special technique by Hunter, which was the use of the brush, and using carbon paper.

Each student was shown how to paint a feather that would symbolize one of the 7 Grandfather teachings. The feather has a special meaning to Indigenous culture. It signifies the connection between the Creator, the owner of the feather, and the bird from whom the feather came. Considered very sacred, the feather symbolizes honor, power, wisdom, trust, strength and freedom. This symbolism is somewhat similar to the 7 Grandfather teachings which are love, respect, bravery, truth, honesty, humility, and wisdom.

Hunter took these important symbols and teachings and showed the students how to incorporate them into the art technique he taught the class to use that day. Each student using the 3 bright colors they chose, drew a feather that they later labelled with one of the 7 Grandfather teachings, of their choice.

The end results were beautiful paintings that each student indicated, “they couldn’t wait to take home with them.” They explained that one of the most common of the three bright colours the classmates had chosen was ocean blue. Several of the students also described their experience that day with Hunter as, “healing”, and that everyone painted in silence, as they focused and thought about their paintings. It was truly an experience that focused on mental health and the importance of healing through their own personal artistic expression.

Hunter genuinely made a lasting impression on the students who when asked what about this experience they remembered the most, said it was the art itself, and the positive attitude that Hunter emulated throughout the workshop. His contagious positivity only complimented his unique talent as an Ojibway artist and his passion to continue promoting and teaching his culture, tradition and history to the youth of today.

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