Native Woodland artists Simone McLeod and Zhaawano Giizhik creating art under the light of the Fisher Star

About artists and warriors

A joint artists' statement by Simone McLeod and Zhaawano Giizhik

Sturgeon and Marten by Simone McLeod

Artists is who we are, telling stories is what we do...

Boozhoo, we are Simone McLeod and Zhaawano Giizhik. As artists, we sometimes ask ourselves what our role is in our communities and in society as a whole and if, and how, and to what extent, our being an artist relates to being a warrior.

The way we understand it, being a warrior is about being modest, the willingness to fight uphill battles for the good of others, and, most of all, about knowing and understanding where we come from. This realization defines our role in society; on a more personal level it might even be integral to deciding where it is that we, as individuals, want to go in life.  

I myself am waabizheshi doodem, a Marten Clan person, and I have heard that in the old days Martin clan members served as pipe bearers and message carriers for the ogimaag (chiefs). I am also told that nowadays martens are looked upon as fierce defenders of mino-bimaadiziwin, the Good Way of the Heart (Midewiwin) and of Anishinaabemowin, the beautiful language of the Ojibwe people. Sure, the virtues that the ancestors accredited to martens (they jump fearlessly into the black of night to defend values, to fight for change, for what is right) are things that I can try to emulate in everyday life, but I am also fully aware that this still doesn't earn me warrior recognition status, or make me an ogichidaa in the eyes of my People, or society as a whole.

What Simone and I do know, however, is that we are artists, who passionately and whole-heartedly chose to tell inspiring stories through works of art. Artists is who we are, it is our calling and it defines our spiritual outlook and, at the same time, our unique yet humble place in society: Simone as a Sturgeon clan person, a mother and a wife and a painter and a poet; myself as a Marten clan person, a father, a writer, a gold and silversmith, and a graphic artist. Telling teaching stories is what we do, and if we are lucky our writings and creations in paint, ink, precious metal, and digital design touch and inspire in meaningful ways the hearts and minds of at least some of those who are out there. City people. Rural people. Reservation people. Those who follow the red road and those who do not, or not yet. The blessed and the drop-outs, the healthy and the disabled. Those who have houses and those who live on the streets. The fortunate and the not so fortunate, the young and the elderly, men, women and youngsters of every color and creed. The brave-hearted out there and, yes, even the not so brave-hearted...

We hope that you will enjoy and be inspired by the art you find on this page and the stories they tell.

Miigwetch!

Illustration: Sturgeon and Marten, acrylic on canvas by Simone McLeod (2013) .