Tuft Love

·4 min read

The Columbia Valley Métis Association (CVMA) will be holding its first caribou hair tufting two-part workshop on April 23 and 30 out of the Chamber of Commerce in Invermere. This workshop will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on both days. All supplies as well as lunch will be provided. Teaching the class will be Maria Rose Sikyea of Caribou Woman Creations from the Yukon. “We’ll be streaming her in virtually,” says CVMA President Monica Fisher. “We already have the supplies that we’ve ordered from her.” This two-part workshop will also incorporate some of the history behind hair tufting.

Maria Rose Sikyea of Caribou Woman Creations has a strong love for tufting and has been actively doing it since 2019. She became aware of the traditional Dené/ Métis skill from her father Timmy Sikyea, who is a tłı̨chǫ (Dogrib) / Shúhtagot’ı̨nę fashion designer from Yellowknife. “My dad created contemporary designs back in the 70s and 80s,” says Sikyea. “His pieces were embellished through moose hair tufting, bead work and porcupine quillwork by many Dené women throughout the Northwest Territories. My father also knew how to do the skills himself. I still own some of his porcupine quilled pieces today.”

Tufting is an intricate skill with a rich history that began in the early 1900’s and was developed by Metís artists Katherine Bouvier and Madeleine Lafferty. Maria Rose Sikyea has been sharing her talent and skill since 2020. Sikyea expresses that her favourite part of sharing is seeing the joys of the participants when they have their knot figured out and have completed a nice circle of caribou hair. Sikyea still feels gratitude for Carmen Miler, a Metís woman who helped her improve her knot one year during the Adaka Festival which takes place in Whitehorse, Yukon.

“We live in a fast-paced environment. Always busy, rushing to pay bills and moving with the speediness of society. I feel tufting slows us down and is a way to connect to our ancestral relations,” says Sikyea. “It is a time to focus with a quiet mind and tough through the thoughts we no longer need to hold onto.” Sikyea chooses to share this traditional skill typically only with those of Indigenous relations but will make an exception to non-Indigenous who want to learn only if they sign a waiver stating they won’t profit from tufting. Sikyea feels it’s an opportunity for all Metís to reclaim some of their history and feel that sense of pride while making way towards a brighter future together.

Sikyea feels that participants will build confidence through this skill as it can be meticulous and focused on details. “I feel a sense of pride with them when they have completed their first blossom,” says Sikyea. “I hope they share the importance of giving back the caribou hair to the land with prayer, intention and a gift. As they continue their tufting journey. I hope they continue to share awareness of where the skill originated from.”

Very conscientious of the environment she is always looking for new ways to bring awareness to the importance of protecting the lands of the caribou. Sikyea advocates for healthy and vibrant lands for her people’s caribou relations across this beautiful continent. She shares most hunters don’t save the winter caribou hides due to warbles on the skin. These hides have good hair, often white which makes them great for dying vibrant colours. Sikyea hopes to create a method to retrieve winter caribou hides along with their shin skins and bones for projects.

Her aim is to make caribou hair more accessible to youth across the north, for caribou hair tufting. “We rely on our relations and those relations are being threatened through climate change, mines and due to our relations not living as close with the caribou as back in the day,” says Sikyea. “I am hoping to bring awareness to being able to work with and use every part of our four-legged gift, the caribou.”

All are welcome to attend this two-part workshop to learn more about the love and art of tufting. Those that are non-Indigenous will be asked to pay a $30 fee. CVMA President Monica Fisher shares that coming out of COVID, a workshop like this is very important to the community and Metís citizens. “Community gatherings are tried and true Metís like many nations,” shares CVMA President Fisher. “It’s exciting for us after two years to be able to get together, have a feast, learn a new skill and laugh.” With two days left before this workshop begins contact columbiavalleycc@mnbc.ca for more information.

Chadd Cawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer

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