Temagami artist receives Order of Ontario

Darlene Wroe

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

TEMAGAMI - Director, producer, choreographer, author and multidisciplinary artist Sandra Laronde of Temagami is now an Order of Ontario recipient.

Laronde is the founder of Red Sky Performance, a leading company of contemporary Indigenous performance both in Canada and internationally. She is also the founder of Native Women in the Arts, the Temagami Artistic Collective, a REDTalks Series, and created an Associate Artist program for next-generation leaders. She has also served as a director of Indigenous Arts at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity for close to ten years.

She said her family grew up with music and dance, her father playing guitar and mandolin and her mother with a love of dancing.

"My parents are definitely very close to my heart," she stated in an email interview.

"My life was enriched by growing up with a beautiful mother who worked very hard raising five children and a father who was a guide, fisherman, and hunter, and both of them loved the land."

Her family was known in Temagami as a creative family, she said.

She also grew up with many cousins with whom she played outdoors.

"The love of being physical, active, and sporty was very much my upbringing. I was a sprinter and I loved all kinds of sports which led to competing in martial arts, dance, and theatre."

She said she knew that she was creative, but she was also shy and quiet, and it was through physical movement and sports, then physical theatre and dance, that she overcame her shyness.

She said she was also inspired by nature.

"I could play outside or be in the bush all day and be happy. I think that the land seeps into a person - like osmosis, the spirit of the land gets inside. This really formed my creative vision."

She was the first in the family to graduate from university and put herself through school by working 25 hours a week while completing a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at the University of Toronto. She also attended one academic year through a Study Elsewhere program at the University of Granada in Spain "which was extraordinary," she added. She then went to Native Theatre School (now known as the Centre for Indigenous Theatre) and participated in several arts programs at the Banff Centre.

"Along my path, I also sought out reputable mentors and one-on-one mentorships with teachers who also taught intangible values of being an artist and becoming a better human being. Then and now, I am a lifelong learner and I dream of a world that does not erase Indigenous intelligence and ingenuity. I pursue traditional knowledge with Elders and Indigenous teachers, and I am especially interested in the Anishinaabe worldview, knowledge, and stories.”

Laronde has received numerous awards through the course of her career, along with her Red Sky company, and has travelled across Canada and internationally speaking and performing. She received the Order of Ontario at a ceremony on November 21.

Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker