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Ria Coleman

South Slave
Fort Smith
(867) 872-5003
Box 818
Fort Smith, NT X0E 0P0

Artist Story

I started making mini Metis sashes as a part of a journey to find out who I was and what significance the Metis status had in my life. Like the threads, I have been trying to piece together, or weave together, this history for myself and for my children.

It started when I noticed that not many people walk around everyday with the traditional sash on their shoulder or around their waist. I thought if I made a mini lapel sash, people could wear it everyday to signify and celebrate their Metis heritage. A while later, I took a sash-making workshop here in Fort Smith, which was easy to pick up since I had already been doing what you would do on large loom.

Today, anyone who buys any sash from me ends up with something unique and meaningful. A full-size sash has up to 250 strands across. When I think of colours I think of what is represented in our story. For instance, the red chevron represents fur traders travelling in a canoe. The yellow and green chevron represents the midnight sun over the boreal forest.The brown and black chevron represent those who fought for Metis rights. The middle is blue and white to show the infinity flag. Some people want custom sashes made to represent their mixed heritages, which allows me to be creative in my weaving.

I love the focus and the detail. It’s like meditation, putting energy into a piece. I always think about why I am making it and why it is important so it is kind of a mantra that goes on over and over in my head. It becomes more and more important as I get older. As a teen you don’t think much of where you came from and your roots but when I had a child it meant more because children need those roots to be grounded.

Artist Bio: 

Ria is a South Slave Metis woman of Beaulieu lineage, who was born here in Fort Smith. She is the great, great, great granddaughter of Francois Beaulieu II, who was the first Metis man of the Northwest Territories. The passion to learn her Metis culture grew with time as she raised her 4 children. Ria’s technique and pattern for the ‘Mini Metis Sash’, is the result of her personal dedication to keeping her Metis culture alove and visible. The colors in her sashes have meaning. The red chevron located on the outside edge of the sash represents the Coureur des bois which means, voyagers canoeing on a river. The white and blue chevron represent Thebacha, otherwise known as the Slave River. The yellow and green chevron are representative of the midnight sun over the boreal forest.

Last Updated: December 3, 2018

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