National Indigenous Peoples Day 2023 takes place on Wednesday, June 21. Arts Umbrella is celebrating Indigenous culture and heritage by featuring some of the artists and organizations within our community. We want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of the artists we work and collaborate with for sharing their knowledge, wisdom, and culture with us.
Joleen Mitton (Miskinahk)
Joleen Mitton (Miskinahk) is a prominent Indigenous leader, activist, and fashion entrepreneur based in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is best known for her role as the founder and creative director of Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week (VIFW), which has become one of the most successful Indigenous fashion events in the world.
Joleen’s passion for fashion and cultural preservation has been the driving force behind VIFW. Through the event, she has created a platform to showcase the work of Indigenous designers and artists, promote cross-cultural understanding, and challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about Indigenous peoples.
In addition to her work with VIFW, Joleen has also been an advocate for Indigenous girls aging out of foster care and has been involved in mentoring and supporting the All My Relations Basketball Team in Vancouver. She has been an instrumental figure in empowering these young women and providing them with the tools and resources needed to achieve their goals and dreams.
Joleen’s commitment to sustainability and ethical practices has been a hallmark of her work with VIFW, and she has been a vocal advocate for more sustainable and equitable practices in the fashion industry. Her leadership and advocacy have helped to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of Indigenous cultures and traditions, and have inspired many to take action towards a more sustainable and equitable future.
Overall, Joleen Mitton’s dedication to promoting Indigenous fashion, culture, and sustainability has made her a respected and admired figure in the Indigenous community in Vancouver and beyond. Her work has helped to create a more inclusive and connected community, and her commitment to empowering and uplifting young Indigenous women has had a lasting impact on the lives of many.
James (NEXW’KALUS-XWALACKTUN) Harry
James Harry was born on October 31, 1989, in Vancouver, British Columbia, to a family of artists. His father, Xwalacktun, is a master carver of the Squamish Nation, and he learned First Nations stories, Salish design, and carving skills from him. Growing up, James was immersed in Squamish Nation culture and traditions, which deeply influenced his artistic style and approach.
James later attended Emily Carr University of Arts and Design, where he obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in Visual Arts in 2014. During his studies, James focused on integrating traditional Coast Salish art forms, including Salish design, with contemporary concepts and materials, experimenting with a variety of media, including wood, metal, and glass.
Today, James Harry is recognized as one of Canada’s most innovative and talented young artists, known for pushing the boundaries of traditional Coast Salish art while using his work to promote cultural understanding and reconciliation. His unique style blends intricate carving with bold, modern designs and incorporates elements like metal, light, and Salish design. James also collaborates with other artists to create new works that explore themes of identity and wholeness while reflecting First Nations stories. Overall, James Harry’s art is a powerful expression of his cultural heritage and a testament to the ongoing vitality and relevance of Indigenous art forms.
Bill Reid Gallery
The Bill Reid Gallery is the only public Gallery in Canada dedicated to contemporary Indigenous Northwest Coast Art and was established by the Bill Reid Foundation in 2008, to celebrate the Haida master artist Bill Reid (1920 – 1998), and the diverse living cultures of the Northwest Coast.
The Gallery honours Bill Reid by exhibiting the Bill Reid SFU Art Collection, and presenting special exhibitions and programs that build bridges between all peoples, including Indigenous and settler populations. Our mandate is to promote a greater awareness of Indigenous cultures and values.
Enjoy FREE admission to the Gallery this Wednesday, June 21st – National Indigenous Peoples’ Day—a day dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the diversity of Indigenous peoples across the country.
Learn more about the Bill Reid Gallery here.
Joseph (Tony) Dandurand
Joseph is a member of Kwantlen First Nation located on the Fraser River. He resides there with his three children.
Dandurand is the director of the Kwantlen Cultural Centre and an accomplished poet, playwright, researcher, archaeologist, and author. He received a Diploma in Performing Arts from Algonquin College and studied Theatre and Direction at the University of Ottawa.
He has produced several plays for adults and youth, including works as the Playwright-in-Residence for the Museum of Civilization in 1995 and a radio script, St. Mary’s, produced by CBC Radio in 1999.
He is also the Heritage/Lands Officer for his people and has been for the past 16 years. He has been tasked with protecting his people’s heritage from the many destructive development elements in the Kwantlen territory.
Dana Claxton is a critically acclaimed artist who works with film, video, photography, single/multi-channel video installation, and performance art. Her practice investigates indigenous beauty, the body, the socio-political and the spiritual. Her work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art (NYC), Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), Walker Art Centre (Minneapolis, MN), Sundance Film Festival, Salt Lake City (UT), Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis (IN), Museum of Contemporary Art (Sydney, AU), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, AR), Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University (Durham, NC), Memphis Brooks Museum of Art (TN) and the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MN). Her work is held in public, private and corporate collections including the National Gallery of Canada, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Vancouver Art Gallery, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Audain Museum, Eiteljorg Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Forge Project, Minneapolis Institute of Art, University of Toronto, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art and the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery.
She has received the VIVA Award (2001), Eiteljorg Fellowship (2007), Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award (2019), YWCA Women of Distinction Award (2019), Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2020) and the Scotiabank Photography Award (2020). She is the winner of Best Experimental film at the IMAGINATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival (2013).
Fringing the Cube, her solo survey exhibition was mounted at the Vancouver Art Gallery (2018) and the body of work Headdress premiered at the inaugural Toronto Biennial of Art, Toronto ON (2019).
She is a Professor and Head of the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at the University of British Columbia. She is a member of Wood Mountain Lakota First Nations located in SW Saskatchewan and she resides in Vancouver Canada.
Charlene Vickers is an Anishinaabe artist based in Vancouver. Her painting, sculpture and performance works explore memory, healing and embodied connections to ancestral lands. She is the recipient of the 2018 VIVA Award. Recent exhibitions include solo shows Memory Flowers, Diana NY, NYC (2023), Medicine Weavings, Cabinet, SFU GALLERIES, (2023), DIVINERS: HEALING, Macaulay and Co. Fine Art, (2023), a co-presentation with Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun Lets’lo:tseltun, Macaulay & Co. Fine Art (2021); Rain Shadow, Nanaimo Art Gallery (2021); Where Do We Go From Here?, Vancouver Art Gallery (2020); Biennale nationale de sculpture Contemporaine, Quebec (2020).