Cathartic beading business flourishes

·5 min read

During the throes of adolescence, Amanda Joe had inner aspirations to learn the art of Ktunaxa beadwork.

As the daughter of a residential school survivor, she did not grow up beading with family.

But she did learn how to perform on the pow wow trail with her family.

“I did grow up learning how to sing,” she explained. “We had a drum group in my family with my mom, my auntie and sisters — singing the old Ktunaxa songs, and we started travelling with our drum group, then I started becoming more familiar with other tribes and seeing how all of their regalia were fully beaded and I wanted a fully beaded regalia — that was my goal. At that time, that was my goal.”

At the mere age of 17, Joe set out to learn how to bead through trial and error. She also would sit with elders from the Akisqnuk First Nation community and watch others bead to learn more about the cultural protocols and techniques passed down for generations.

“I started learning how to bead on my own and over the years, I just learned from my mistakes and kept perfecting what works best for my artwork,” said Joe. “For just over 20 years now, I’ve been beading.”

Today, the 40-year-old artisan and member of the Aq’am community has successfully met her goal of beading distinctly Ktunaxa regalia for herself, adding details to it gradually over time.

She has also devoted time toward making fully beaded regalia for each of her children with nearly every passing summer.

In fact, Joe now accepts custom beading orders to make regalia, earrings, brooches and necklaces for others upon requests.

“I really like it. I have my whole system down now where I can get a project done,” she said. “I can get a pair of earrings down in a day-and-a-half. When I first started, it would take me a month to finish a beret. Now I can get two-or-three projects done a week.”

Over time, Joe has learned how to bead her family’s crest and how to be respectful to other families by checking with elders if certain designs are apt in her work.

Culturally, she has learned how to focus on her state of mind before beginning any new beading projects.

“I was self-taught, but there are certain protocols that I was taught,” she said about beading. “Even though I wasn’t specifically taught (how to bead), I learned that you shouldn’t bead when you’re feeling angry from elders. You should only bead when you’re feeling good because it’s like medicine. There’s generations of knowledge that you’re putting into your project and you want good things so you want good energy with it.”

She encourages others from the community to be mindful of their state of mind before embarking on new beading projects and to consult with elders to ensure the designs can be used in an ethical, safe way that respects local Ktunaxa members.

“Ask elders if it’s okay to use designs before beading to ensure you’re not using a family’s design,” she explained of the ethical protocols from the community. “Generally each tribe has different designs in their artwork. For example, the plains tribes will have more symmetrical designs with squares and diamonds, whereas tribes around this area will have florals. You’ll notice a lot of flowers in the beadwork, and a long time ago, that’s how you could tell where someone is from at pow wows. It would be a lot more flowers that you’d see in this area. Like four or five petal flowers.”

Lately, Joe has focused on beading animals from the Ktunaxa Creation Story to honour and respect their contributions to living on the land, and local flowers that are reminiscent of her childhood in the Columbia Valley.

“In mine, you’ll see a lot of different flowers and a lot of them are symbolic,” she said. “You’ll see a lot of purple crocuses in my beadwork. To me, that is a memory that is special because my Dad would make me flower crowns out of crocuses. He passed away when I was 17, so when I miss him, I’ve noticed that a lot of purple crocuses will show up in my bead.”

But the cultural significance of moccasins has remained one of her favourite pastimes. She makes them for her children to pass down cultural beliefs in her family and values that moccasins can be worn to ceremonies.

“Moccasins are probably my favourite because of the cultural significance that it has,” she said. “When I’m making those for my kids, I know that when they’re using it, it will help with our culture beliefs. I feel that when I’m making things like that for them to take into ceremonies, it holds a lot more meaning. It has a lot more sentimental value from our cultural roots.”

To view some of her work, please visit Ktunaxa.QT on Instagram at

www.instagram.com/ktunaxa.qt/ or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ktunaxaqt-Amanda-Joes-Creations-111145737221412

To make a purchase, please visit Joe’s Etsy page at www.etsy.com/people/6ulzf857?ref=hdr_user_menu-profile

Breanne Massey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer