My art is based on ancient techniques passed down to me by generations of Dene artists. My parents, as I prefer them, are my grandparents – Jane, my grandmother, a Sahtuotine, married a Tlicho man, Joe Rebesca, my grandfather. They raised and taught me these techniques and skills. I was also lucky enough to be influenced by my grandmother (Joe’s mother), whom was born Hare Dene until she passed away at the unique age of 106 among her Tlicho family.
I mostly make traditional art in a style specific to my home-community of Deline. Some of my crafts are pieces that are rarely seen or made any more, so in a way I am telling a mystical story, brought back from the past in the form of art. My elders talked about how Dene clothing and accessories were produced in their day, and I try to imitate their techniques as realistically as possible. I use different raw materials for my artwork, such as porcupine quills, birchbark, spruce roots and animal hides.
The first craft I remember making was a babiche bag (a netted bag made from raw caribou hide strips) when I was about 12 or 13 years old. Now, I make them in three different sizes, with many designs and patterns. I am also working towards recreating a series of traditional Dene regalia for a whole Sahtugotine family as a part of a showcase or display. This style of clothing uses a lot of porcupine quills, which take a lot of time and patience to work with in order to enhance the beauty of the design. It took me nearly ten years to master working with porcupine quills; dying, sorting, sewing the quills into clothing, weaving them into belts, head bands and wrist bands. Working with porcupine quills may be very intricate and time consuming work, but in the end it is a very rewarding accomplishment.
The most important aspect of my art is that it reflects my Dene culture and traditions in such a way to preserve its integrity by teaching others. Knowing that art can help to maintain a cultural identity and language is a legacy I feel compelled to tell the story of.