I started to sew when I was about nine years old. I learned from my grandmother and mother, and from the Elders who taught at my school. My mother raised us very well. She worked hard and taught us many skills, including sewing. My mother used to do a lot of artwork and drawing for people. My grandma tanned hides and we would watch her often. I learned so much from both of them.
When I moved to Yellowknife, I continued sewing for my family. I do beading and embroidery and love to work with sealskin. I do my own drawings and designs and I put them together. I particularly like to make purses and vests with sequins. I have been tanning hides for a long time, and now my husband is helping me. I draw a lot of uppers for other artists when they ask. It’s nice to help each!
When I sew, there is nothing for me to worry about. It is such a good way to release stress, especially when I’m in the bush. I will take my sewing with me wherever I go. When I’m travelling, my husband will be driving and I’ll be sewing beside him, even though it is challenging in a moving vehicle. Honestly, if I don’t sew for two days, I will cry! It’s my life and it keeps me going.
I am teaching my kids how to sew for themselves. My daughters can make mukluks, purses, earrings, fur mitts and other items. I love to work with kids in school programs because they all really want to learn. I encourage the use of the Tlicho when I sew, because a lot of youth don’t speak the language nowadays. I think it is essential for schools to ensure the kids can learn traditional skills. I once visited a school in Yellowknife and I saw a group of small kids tanning a hide. They were from all cultural backgrounds and that was very touching to witness: I was so happy to see them, taking turns and sharing an important part of my culture.