Artist Story

I was raised in Blackwater at a camp until I was about 10 years old and ready to go to public school. My dad really believed I would lose my culture if he sent me to school before that point. I am very fortunate for this.

I started sewing when I was six years old. My mother taught me at first by making a homemade doll and teaching me how to make the clothing. Through my mother and my aunties, I was taught what they learned from my great-grandmother. All the techniques that my late mother used came from older generations. She is what inspires me - all her patience and knowledge. I would watch her take every stitch and tell me a story behind the drawings and details. There was always a story attached to our artwork.

When we use fur and hide, we respect the materials we work with. When hunters set traps, they do a dance so the animal will come to the snare. The items that are made from that animal must be respected. You also need to take care and make good stitches, not big lazy stitches. When I started making slippers I had to undo the stitches about 8 or 9 times until it was perfect and then I could move on to another project.

I like to make a lot of flowers and different animal drawings in my beading designs. I am doing an eagle design right now. I’ve kept everything my mother has ever given me – slippers or mittens – and now I use all her patterns. I have even taken them apart to see how the material used and how they were constructed. They used to use porcupine quills because they never had beads so I try to take those same designs and make them with beads.




Artist Bio: 

South Slavey language Translator, Interpreter and Transcriber

MaryJane Cazon whom is a resident of Fort Simpson NT is a certified language specialist, has 22 years as an interpreter, transcriber and translator in Fort Simpson NT.

MaryJane had re-written stories, music and prayers, while working with youth at Bompas Elementary School to encourage and strengthen uses of the South Slavey Dene language in which MaryJane is very fluent.  MaryJane had started a sewing class and still to this day works with the youth to do various arts and crafts project.

MaryJane as a teacher along with her husband implemented a fall and spring culture camp for the Bompas Elementary School which to this day is still done in both seasons. Each spring and fall, she used to take the eager youngsters across the Mackenzie River to the cultural camp where they are taught skills in harvesting, preparation and uses, identify wild plants (some of which have medicinal powers), make bannock and dry meat, and give proper respect to the land and water with tobacco.

MaryJane Cazon and her husband, Gilbert, take their four children out to Notana Lake, an hour and a half southeast of Fort Simpson, during the winter annually to practice cultural skills and pass on traditional knowledge. They also speak Slavey to them while at home or on the land to encourage uses. Not every child gets that reinforcement at home, and the 30 minutes of class time alone isn't enough to keep the Dene language strong, she conceded.

Last Updated: May 19, 2023

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