“My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.” Louis Riel
I am a Métis artist living in Regina, Saskatchewan. Presently I'm working on a Métis Spirit Animal series of over 28 mixed media acrylic paintings each 36”x40” in size. This series is highly textured and designed with my animal motifs and Métis beadwork art designs created with modelling paste. Beadwork designs are extremely diverse even within Indigenous cultures and my art captures the colorful intricate symmetrical designs of the Métis beaders.
The descriptions for the animals are derived from the animal’s natural behaviours and ways of being within their habitats. The titles for each Spirit Animal painting acknowledges the basic human values that we all possess within us. Balance is essential throughout our lifetimes and symbolized in my artwork. We all have similar beliefs of what it is to be a good human and these values guide us in the right direction. Coming together and recognizing our connections regardless of our backgrounds will help us learn to live in harmony on Mother Earth.
When viewing my art individuals may feel some connections as they reflect on their own personal characteristics and qualities within themselves and their circles. They may have an emotional reaction to the art that reminds them of the strength of a loved one, the wisdom of a community leader or the lightheartedness of a colleague. If you can find a little piece of yourself within my art, it has fulfilled its purpose.
My art also reflects on the connections that the Métis people have with animals, plants and nature. Throughout history Métis people were natural hunters and gathers. There was a time that hunting and gathering for all people was necessary for survival. Our Indigenous ancestors shared their knowledge of the uses of wild plants and animals both edible and for medicinal purposes. My Kokum possessed this knowledge. However colonialism prevented much of it from being shared with the next generation for fear of retribution.
Additionally it is important that my art highlights our beautiful prairie animal wildlife that is an intrical part of our communities. If you love listening to a bird singing, seeing a deer racing across a meadow and beavers building a lodge you can relate. Each of my paintings are embellished with a unique Métis beadwork design. Hidden within the floral designs is one real spirit bead. A spirit bead reminds us that we are human and not perfect and not to be so hard on ourselves. My Métis ancestors beaded a spirit bead within their amazing beadworks. Some floral designs are traditional and others are abstract creations. In some of my art the flower design represents the environment the animal lives in and what the animal eats.
Indigenous uses of plants and animals vary amongst Nations. However there are also many similarities, due to cross-culture sharing and living in the same locations. Artwork will always bring people together to celebrate our unique cultures and create a better understanding of our past and present realities. My art embraces nature and hopefully encourages us to be mindful of the importance of keeping it healthy and clean for all living things and future generations.
Métis people have been known as the "Flower Beadwork People”, a name given to them by First Nations people. Flower beadwork continues to be crafted on clothing, pouches, covers and jewelry. Our ancestor's gorgeous symmetrical designs are still present today. Métis floral beadwork adorance is our way of giving thanks to the plant world that continues to provide us with an abundance of food, medicine and joy.
Stories and History
My Kokum's creativity and determination inspired my art. She lived in a two room house on Jackrabbit Street on the road allowance in Lebret, Saskatchewan. There she brought up 11 children with her husband Grégoire Poitras. During the winter months she lived with us, as her home lacked amenities. Lovingly we would string beads for her gorgeous necklaces. For our efforts she gave us a nickel per string, which would go full circle in an evening game of rummy. The sales of necklaces provided her with extra income for living expenses. The elders in my youth were positive role models and always encouraged my creative nature.
When my Mooshum Grégoire Poitras was a child his family travelled with several other Métis families to hunt in the surrounding area of St. Francis Xavier, Manitoba (before it was Manitoba) and Turtle Mountain in the US within the Little Shell Reserve (where they also lived). They migrated with the Buffalo, as that was the main source of food at that time. After the resistance of 1885 many more Métis families settled in with their Chippewa friends at the Little Shell Reserve to escape unwarranted prosecution. Some Métis families had previous kinship ties with the Chippewa through marriage and friendship decades before 1885.
Mooshum's family along with several other Métis and Chippewa negotiated the McCumber Agreement of 1892 which was to be a treaty to settle land claims for the Chippewa and Métis. Unfortunately it was not a very successful Treaty due to the US government's constant executive orders, enabling settlers to take over most of the land. The Métis people's connection to Canada and growing population was a threat to the American government. They enforced laws that weakened any treaty claims for all that lived there. At that time if you were a blended Métis-Chippewa family your Métis partner was forced to move off the landbase. Whole families relocated mostly in Montana, so they wouldn't be separated.
Around this time the Poitras families that lived with their Chippewa friends and family members were known as the Marten Clan. Animal clan names (doodems) in the Chippewa community are a part of their cultural practices. The clan system recognized the special qualities of group members and families that lived on Little Shell Reserve and in other Ojibwa Nations. Members could only marry into other clans. There were originally 7 clans. Later that grew to 21 clans. "Each clan was ascribed different characteristics, and members of those clans were thought to exemplify these characteristics. The people of the Marten Clan were hunters, food gathers and warriors of the people. Long ago, warriors fought to defend their village or hunting territory. They became known as master strategists in planning the defense of their people." - Kade M. Ferris M.S. Historian
My artistic representation of the connections we have with animals, plants and nature is partly derived from the history of my Métis ancestors and also our Métis kinship connections across Canada. Indigenous worldview promotes all living things as equals. We are here as stewards and to protect the earth. If nature is not cared for and becomes polluted due to human exploitation then all living things including humans will become unhealthy. Balancing, spiritual, mental, emotional and physical needs is the key to healthy living.
Métis Spiritual belief systems are diverse. Many Métis orient themselves toward European religions such as Anglican & Catholic. While others practice First Nations spirituality or a mix of both. For example following the Seven Grandfather Teachings and smudging as a daily spiritual practice to guide them through life.
More Family History
My Mooshum's Uncle Pierre Poitras was a Councilor on the Manitoba Provisional Government. After Riel's arrest all members of the Provisional Government were beaten, even though they founded Manitoba for Canada. Nor was it recognized that the Métis people's presence and patrol of the area prevented the U.S. from claiming the land. The misinformation coming from John A. McDonald and his colleagues enticed the settlers to buy plots of land and move west to take over the Métis landbase and homes. The Métis were resisting this action, there was no Rebellion. Pierre was an elderly man and did not fair well after being beaten and dragged by a horse. During this time the army with unleashed power from the government took it upon themselves to pillage Métis homes and assault their woman. The Poitras family history is diverse and honourable. However their were many sad moments in our history.
My Kokum's family lineage is connected to the Parisiens which are equally as honourable. Presently I am researching this part of my ancestory.
Another interesting fact is the main road that runs through the heart of Turtle Mountain in North Dakota where my Mooshum, Grégoire Poitras and his family also lived is named Jack Rabbit Road. I believe the name was carried with the Métis to Lebret where they settled on the road allowance and named the road Jackrabbit Street.
Mooshum's father, Modeste Poitras was a buffalo hunter and family stories passed down suggest he was killed during one of their yearly hunting expeditions in the Turtle Mountain area. I would like to do further research to verify this story.
Many Métis families spoke several Indigenous languages. The Poitras and Parisien families spoke Southern Michif. Many also spoke French, English, Cree and the Ojibwa Chippewan language. In the Lebret Valley Michif and Cree were widely spoken. However the children of the Métis families were not aloud to speak their languages at the Catholic run schools. Unfortunately it was lost to many of the next generations. Presently Métis are slowly reclaiming their lost languages.
My mother remembers the Catholic nuns visiting her home when she was a child. My Kokum hid her in the closet and asked her not to speak. She feared they would take her away to the convent to live or to the residential school. My Kokum was highly religious and prayed everyday with her Rosery in her hand, but still feared for her children's wellbeing.
I often pondered as a youth why my Kokum's home was so different than my Scottish Grandmother's. One home had all the amenities, a flushing toilet, running water, a beautiful 4 bedroom house with a veranda. My Kokum's home had two rooms, an outhouse, no running water, no flush toilet, no electricity or heating system. I still remember the taste of her fried bannock made on her wood burning stove. That same stove provided her with warmth in the winters. This was in the 70's before her passing. At that same time most newcomer (immigrants) homes were modernized. Several years later I learned the knowledge of the past through my Métis history classes at SUNTEP, as elders would not talk about it and it was not taught in mainstream school. Our people's culture, land and homes were stolen away forcing them to relocate with their families. More than one time in some cases. It was near impossible to regain it all back due to the new society's (newcomers) suppression against our people. However my mom always speaks of how happy they were living in Lebret. The old ones pain and suffering was not reflected onto their children, which really helped the Métis people survive. Métis were and are still resilient even after having their livelihoods and homes stripped away.
I am dedicating this series to the Métis beaders in their quest to reclaim our beautiful beadwork and our Michif language teachers that are determined to reclaim our language. Most importantly I am dedicating this series to all of our Indigenous ancestors who suffered unbelievable injustices through the years. Their incredible resiliency and will to survive is present in our children today in both strength and love. Even after enduring years of pain, we are here, we are loved and we survived.
Evolution of My Art
Since childhood I have always celebrated life through art. Growing up on a farm was quite isolated. Then I would draw for hours in front of a frost filled window. It gave me some quiet time to myself. I have 5 siblings and my parents always had several of my cousins living with us to help their families out.
Being a self taught artist in the digital era is beneficial and numerous online tutorials provided me with a wealth of knowledge. I have made it a point to self teach myself in several different mediums. Presently my focus is mixed media acrylic paintings with animal motifs and textured Métis beadwork. This series of paintings has several layers and steps creating depth and captivating interest. It highlights the colorful beauty and symmetry of Métis beadwork
I have created several backdrops for school musicals and community events. I was proud to donate art for silent auctions, one for the Early Learning Centre of a turtle. During my career I helped organize and co-presented several workshops to integrate children's Indigenous stories with art. I was fortunate and thankful to have the Saskatchewan Arts Board award me with the Indigenous art grant in 2018 to create a 108”x48” triptych with mixed media techniques and my floral artwork. And at present a 2019-2020 Arts Board grant to continue my love of art and painting. With the present Spirit Animal Series of paintings. I also recently produced a 5 minute video with the support of the Canadian Arts Council. This was my first experience with animation. I have a whole new appreciation for animators and it's fair to say I am not one. I have designed art for the Regina Downtown Business District on several traffic boxes and door art. One of a turtle that represents Turtle Island, it’s embellished with Métis beadwork, you can view it in front of the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina. It feels fantastic to Indigenize local areas with art that represents the beauty of Metis culture.
My most recent back alley artwork is directly behind the Copper Kettle business. This is wrapped with a digital image of three of my Métis Spirit Animals. As well, it was exhilarating to create a project for Sask. Cultural Days 2019 and Articulate Ink. I carved a 2’x4’ buffalo running through the valley for their steamroller printing event, titled, “Where the Buffalo Roamed”. Further being included in the Art Now exhibition with the support of Sakewewak First Nations Artists' Collective was an important stepping stone.
I will be highlighting the Michif word for each animal in the descriptions of my art. My hope is that both Metis and other cultural backgrounds will learn some of our language. As you know many Indigenous people including myself lost their languages over the years due to forced assimilation.
In addition to being an artist and designer I graduated from the Saskatchewan Native Teaching Program ( Suntep) and I am now a retired teacher of 28 years. I have endless ideas and plans to continue my growth and drive to create art throughout my life and to represent the beauty of the Métis beadwork through art. This new phase of my life gives me the opportunity to focus on my love of sharing my Métis inspired art. I eventually plan on producing a children's book with the inclusion of our Michif language. Michif is slowly making a resurgence and I myself aspire to learn Michif. Many of our traditional teachings were not passed down for fear of retribution. However the resiliency of the Métis people is inspiring and we are slowly reclaiming the lost parts of our culture.
I’ve been a busy bee during this pandemic (Literally I just started in January 2020 with this series) and I’m also creating an artist gift product line that will represent the “Flower Beadwork People''. Métis inspired gifts are few in our gift shops across the Nation and I would like to help improve that situation through my artwork and creativity. It is important that our vibrant culture is represented in a positive light. It is a wonderful feeling when an Métis person acquires an art product to proudly enjoy it in their homes. My 83 year old mom had tears in her eyes when I gave her a gift that represented her culture. My art and design reflects our Métis identity and helps preserve it for future generations. Artwork will always bring people together to celebrate our unique cultures and create a better understanding of the past and present realities.
I sign my art P. Poitras-Jarrett honouring both my Métis mother (Cree-Ojib, French) and my Scottish-English father. I will always promote pride and positivity through art in the community and in Indigenous people.
Sending love and hope to the world during this pandemic,
Website: https://www.metisspiritart.ca/ https://www.instagram.com/metisspiritart/
Some interesting facts about my family history:
CV Below the Art ...
CV Phyllis Jarrett-Poitras - Indigenous Contemporary Artist
My contemporary art is influenced by my rich Metis culture of both present and past. Metis people are known as the “Flower Beadwork People” and I depict both traditional and created abstract floral designs within my art. I consider myself an experienced artist, yet continuing to emerge and learn. I am a registered member of the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan.
June 2021 - 10 of my wildlife Spirit Animal images be highlighted in the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative's annual report.
April 2021 - My Beaver Spirit art will be included on a page of Hugh's next book https://www.hughwarwick.com/about/ Hugh is an ecologist from the UK with the same concerns as we have here in Canada concerning our environment, habitats and wildlife. He is presently writing a book on beavers.
April 2021 - I am presently designing another art design for the City of Regina Traffic Box Art Program. https://reginadowntown.ca/trafficboxart/
January 2021 - Commissioned to create 5 art tutorials for SaskCulture for the DreamBrokers program which provides programming for inner city children.
January 2021- Presented a zoom art tutorial for Métis Dot Art (pointillism). Organized by Native Women's Association of Canada through the MMWC Resiliency Lodge in Quebec. Several women across Canada came together for the session.
January 2021 - I was fortunate to have my painting, "Honouring the Buffalo: featured on the University of Regina Arts 2021 note card.
November 2020 - I was grateful to accept the Indigenous Art grant from SASKARTS to complete my Metis Spirit Animal Series that are each 36"x40" in size. Further to help people gain a better understanding of the Flower Beadwork People's amazing floral designs and their connection to all living things on Mother Earth.
November 2020 - I was very grateful to be featured on the U of Regina Arts holiday greeting card for 2020. Metis Spirit Rabbit Holiday Greeting Card
November 2020 - Featured in Dan Levy's (amazing human being and star on Schitts Creek TV series) holiday favourites list. He made a point to educate himself about Indigenous history to present after taking a UofA course online during the pandemic a must watch. Indigenous Modules on You Tube
November 2020 - I completed a short video animation for the Canadian Arts Council. It is 5 mins in length and includes my Spirit Animals motifs. The concept idea is how the pandemic affected the animals, people and environment both positive and negative. It's fair to say that I have a whole new appreciation for animators. This experience led me to believe I need more practice and time to learn in this area. Thank you CAC for giving me this opportunity.
November 2020 - My Metis Spirit Beaver was highlighted in a Scottish conservation calendar to save and bring back beavers to their natural habitat located in Scotland.
Alley Door Art 2020 - My "Metis Spirit Animal art was chosen to be installed for the Alley Art project to promote positive cultural relations. You can find my Spirit, Moose, Buffalo and Deer in the alley directly behind the Copper Kettle in the alley. I love this idea!
August 2020 Canadian Hello Magazine August special edition.
August 2020 My "Metis Spirit Animal" designed products are being sold at With These Hands here in Regina.
May 2020 I am honoured to have my art hanging at the Native Women's Association of Canada Resiliency Lodge in Quebec.
Dec. 2020 - Sask. Arts Board Grant 2020 to create six 36"x40" mixed paintings for a series of 20 plus "Metis Spirit Animals" I am presently working on. These are being created and painted during the pandemic of 2020 --- to who knows.
Projects/Grant Awards - Sept. 2019 - Sâkêwêwak Artists’ Collective Gallery -Chose four of my 30”x 48” mixed paintings to display at the 2019 Art Now Saskatchewan Fine Art Fair.
August 2019 - Sask. Cultural Days Event/Art Submission/Articulate Ink. My art was chosen by Articulate Ink for a Sask. Culture Event depicts a buffalo running across the Saskatchewan plains near the Qu'appelle Valley. I carved Metis floral beadwork sprouting up from the ground. It was carved onto a 2’x4’ woodblock. I helped ink the woodblock and it was rolled over with a steamroller on Scarth St. in Regina during Cultural Days to create a paper print. The steamroller printing event was organized by Articulate Ink. Loved It!
Dec. 2018 - Sask. Arts Board Grant 2018 to create a 108”x 48” mixed media canvas collage Painting (Triptych) Titled “Valley Tranquility” A representation of Qu'appelle Valley And it’s three lakes with vertical lines representing the sky, water, sun and earth. As well Metis flower beadwork canvas cutouts across the scene
City of Regina Downtown - March 2019 - Traffic Box Art 2018 I created beadwork graphics and a Turtle to adorn this box located in front of Regina Central Library and Dunlop Art Gallery. Titled “ Turtle Islands Water”, to bring awareness to clean water across Turtle Island (North America) and to promote positive cultural and community relations and prevent graffiti in Regina, Sk. downtown area. I participated in a first time art walk in our city's back alley ways to discuss my art along with several other artists. Alley Door Art 2018 - A second location for “The Circle of Rejuvenation” installed for the Alley Art project to promote positive cultural relations. May 2016 Traffic Box Art installation, The title is “The Circle of Rejuvenation” It’s located in front of the Saskatchewan Mental Health building and brings joy and peace to the space. It’s adorned with bright yellow floral beadwork and buffaloes with the sun shining down. To promote positive cultural and community relations and prevent graffiti in Regina, Sk. downtown area. https://reginadowntown.ca/trafficboxart/
1990-2018 Regina Public School Board, Regina, Sk.28 YEARS — Elementary Teacher Retired - Throughout my career I had opportunities to coordinate Indigenous focused events and positive cultural awareness such as inviting Indigenous expert presenters and inviting Elder’s visits for the children. (Bannock, Storytellers, a Tipi raising and crafts) Integrating art within the children’s learning was of great importance to develop creative young adults throughout my career. My creative gifts gave me many opportunities to help prepare backdrops and art for special events throughout the year. Ensuring that the children always took part.
Committees/Workshops - RPSTA 2000 Conference Sask. Teacher’s Yearly Convention to help organize the Indigenous component - communications committee, Integrating Indigenous Literature and Art Workshops 1997-1999 for AWASIS, RPSB Convention and Sask. Reading Council with my co-presenter Christina Johns.
Other Experience - Métis Spirit Art & Design is my personal artist website influenced by my rich Metis culture to display and sell my art, decor and fashion designs. The art and graphics on my website are designed by me. Most importantly in addition to being an ecommerce/artist website I created it to promote positive relations between our communities and promote our rich culture. Skills - Several years of self taught (Online) Art, photoshop, photography tutorials. As well as studying informational books on techniques and style, Photography knowledge & use of a full frame Sony A7III, Web Designer and Manager of a home-based business, Knowledge and confident use of Photoshop 2019 and Lightroom 2019, Designing graphics using an Intuos Graphic tablet and photoshop, Creating small video presentations
Website Designing & Social Media - sole designer of Metis Spirit Art & Design shopify, Metis Spirit Art & Design Facebook,Metis Spirit Art & Design Instagram with a Social Media Course by (Blue Moose Media)
EDUCATION - University of Regina, S.U.N.T.EP, Regina, Sk.- Bachelors Of Education
Graduated 1990. SUNTEP is a fully accredited Bachelor of Education Program with a cross-cultural focus in Metis History and Culture. I majored in cross-cultural studies. I was a teacher for 28 years and enjoyed teaching students about the Metis culture and history.
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Métis Spirit Art and Design