‘Our Home and Native Land’
I grew up in the beautiful Bulkley Valley in Northern British Columbia where I was surrounded by the art and culture of the local First Nations people. As a child, I was invited, along with my schoolmates, to take part in traditional style feasts, to hear stories of local culture told by elders, and to learn the art styles of the local Indigenous people. Thus, being naturally drawn to anything creative, I became fascinated with the intricate art designs and style of the Northwest Coast First Nations at a young age.
‘Our Home and Native Land’ was created for a First Nations Art class that took while attending the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in 2006. The map design was inspired by my background in Geography, which was my undergraduate major. I was taking a political Geography class at the time and we were exploring the impacts that borders have on various groups of people. At the same time, I was taking a First Nations art class where we were learning about the various art forms of local First Nations people, and how art was traditionally more than simple a picture on a wall, but was an integral part of everyday culture (i.e. woven baskets were used for collecting berries and totem pole carvings told stories that were not written down). The artwork itself was inspired by the art style which I grew up admiring. It is merely a representation of the Northwest Coast Art Style which is utilized by several First Nations in British Columbia (including, but not limited to, the Witsuwit’en, Haida, Tsimshian, and Tlingit First Nations), all of which I find to be extraordinary.
As a culminating project for this First Nations art class, we were given the topic of ‘Synchronous Dichotomous’ and were told to create an art piece keeping this in mind. I decided to combine my interest in Geography and my love for this beautiful style of art to create ‘Our Home and Native Land’. I researched the provincial and territorial animal symbols for each province and territory, which is embodied within the borders of each. However, being that I am not of Indigenous descent, nor had I had any formal art training, it took much research and practice to create this piece. As such, it is a far cry from what any trained First Nations artist would be able to produce. However, I believe that the meaning behind ‘Our Home and Native Land’ far surpasses any artistic ‘flaws’ that might be apparent and even further overpowers the fact that I, myself, am not Indigenous.
What does it mean? Like any piece of art, this painting can offer any number of interpretations. However, my intention was this: This ‘map’ of Canada illustrates the synchronous, intricately connected relationship that First Nations People have with their land. Simultaneously, it demonstrates the dichotomy that First Nations’ were (and still are) faced with as the imposition of borders separated them from their land – the land which the entire livelihood of their culture relies upon. As we approach the 150th birthday of our wonderful country, ‘Our Home and Native Land’ celebrates Canada's true heritage. It serves as a reminder that we need to learn about, understand, and respect the culture of the Indigenous people in our country – which, I am happy to see, is being done in the new curriculum in British Columbia.
We are all Canadians, and we are so fortunate to live in such a diverse, multicultural, and accepting country. If we listen to the words of our national anthem through a slightly altered lens, it might just make us think twice about where ‘Our home and Native Land’ actually came from.
Jennifer Adomeit (Creator and Artist of ‘Our Home and Native Land’)
BA Geography, UNBC (2007)
BEd, VIU (2008)
Canadian Provincial and Territorial Animal Symbols
BC: Spirit Bear
Alberta: Big Horn Sheep
Saskatchewan: White-Tailed Deer
Ontario: Common Loon
Quebec: Snowy Owl
New Brunswick: Black Capped Chickadee
Nova Scotia: Osprey
Prince Edward Island: Blue Jay
Newfoundland: Caribou (the islands are represented by a salmon tail)
Northwest Territories: Polar Bear
Nunavut: Canadian Inuit Dog
'The Spirit of BC'
This painting was derived from my first project, 'Our Home and Native Land'. When researching the representative animals for each Canadian province, I found that British Columbia's animal was the Spirit Bear. How fitting, since the First Nations people of BC, their art, culture, and history are such an integral part of the 'spirit' of our beautiful province. As such, 'The Spirit of BC was born.