Tattoo gathering set to make another mark in Kanesatake

The Kanesatake Traditional Indigenous Tattoo Gathering is slated to return to the community for a second year of uniting Onkwehón:we over a practice with deep cultural roots.

“It’s a ceremony,” said Stacy Pepin of traditional tattooing. Pepin has taken the reins of organizing this year after helping with last summer’s event “It’s part of the culture that was lost. Being able to bring it back to the community and to bring awareness and teachings about it, it was really great,” she said.

She hopes to ensure this year’s gathering again brings the community together to explore what traditional tattooing means and how it can be done in a modern context. In recent years, she has learned more about traditional tattoos in Haudenosaunee culture, she said.

Pepin received multiple tattoos at last year’s event, including on her fingers. She received one from Mercedes Terrance of Akwesasne.

“I got hand poked,” she said. “It was an experience in itself. I was emotional. My artist was singing. I even heard one of the other organizers in the other tent singing. So that also can be emotional.”

The tattoo relates to the creation story, including a miniature sky dome, and depicts mountains.

“It’s just a reminder to always ground myself in the culture and never forget where I come from or who my ancestors are,” she said.

Terrance is among the tattoo artists who will be coming back again this year for the event, which is currently set for the first weekend in August.

“I want to have a social on Friday night as a way to get everybody reacquainted with each other,” said Pepin.

It takes a lot of planning to put on an event of this size, but that is well underway.

“I did a lot of researching for tents, toilets, and even a catering service,” said Pepin. “I even went as far as expanding the roster of artists.”

Seven artists are confirmed so far, according to Pepin.

One important arrangement that is not finalized is the financial aspect of the event, but fundraising is ongoing to ensure that the event lives up to last year’s gathering.

Kanehsata’kehró:non and others who want to support the event can buy Kanesatake Tattoo Gathering stickers from Bayside Convenience for $5 each. They can also be purchased by e-transfer by contacting Pepin directly.

A raffle is also being held to raise money for the event, with 250 tickets on sale for $20 each. The grand prize is $1,000.

With a goal of $15,000, Pepin had raised nearly $500 for the tattoo gathering as of early this week.

To make matters a little easier, the Kanesatake Health Center is pitching in the tents, according to Pepin.

She emphasizes that all Onkwehón:we are welcome, not just tattoo enthusiasts such as herself.

“I want people to feel comfortable coming even if they’re not getting a tattoo, just to come for the ambiance,” she said.

Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door