Niamh Dooley is an Anishininew (Oji-Cree) and Irish contemporary artist based in Winnipeg. She is a band member of St. Theresa Point First Nation (Mitheynigaaming/ Mariah Portage) in Treaty 5 territory of Manitoba (part of the Island Lake communities) but grew up in Treaty 3 territory in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.

Nintawin, which means “my home” in Oji-Cree, focuses on identity, family connection, inter-generational knowledge sharing, and reclaiming ancestral knowledge. Autobiographical works, painted from old family photographs, depict Dooley’s extended family and the objects of their culture. They focus on the passing down of knowledge, skills and practice through family and community.

Colonization, which manifested as forced assimilation, loss of land rights, and the residential school system, attempted to strip Indigenous people in Canada of their identities. Families were displaced and cultural practices suppressed. Through a process of discovery and a display of resilience, Dooley incorporates traditional materials such as beadwork, moose hair and sinew onto canvas primed with rabbit skin glue. Customary Indigenous art-making practices and the use of Oji-Cree language replace the colonial art history taught in the classroom, allowing Dooley the freedom to experiment with ways to express her identity.

It is important to note that Dooley’s work is unique and reflects her cultural heritage and lived experiences. There are many aspects of this experience that contrast with the lived experiences of Indigenous Peoples in Treaty 6, around St. Albert and the extended Metro Edmonton area. Cultural contrasts are represented through artifacts sourced from Treaty 6. These objects provide a local connection to the work and are on loan from local families and the Musée Heritage Museum.

This exhibition was created in consultation and collaboration with local Indigenous community leaders and Elders. We are most grateful for their knowledge, expertise and wisdom.

 

 

A self-portrait wearing my mother’s ribbon dress. Red seed beads stem from my fingers,resembling veins coming from the heart and touching the ground. The five branches along the bottom of the canvas represent roots. The canvas is in the shape of a ribbon skirt. Traditionally the ribbon skirt would reach down to the ground, connecting the wearer to the land. This piece represents my current journey of learning my culture from my ancestor, my maternal bloodline, and continuing this knowledge to future generations.

ehema nintehi mikowinduhwihkow nitankoopabanak ekes meena kitakiiminan

From Heart to ancestors and the land

Oil on canvas with branches, beads, and animal hide, 2018

 

Tikinagan

Cradleboard

 

Oil on canvas with branches, sinew, beads and animal hide

 


A self portrait of myself when I was younger in a tikinigan (cradleboard).
My mother put my sisters and me into a tikinigan when we were babies to help us sleep.
The bottom of the cradleboard is typically curved to help rock the baby back and forth,
to sway the baby to sleep. Some cradleboards were decorated with painted wood designs; our family used a lot of floral patterns.
Decorated moss bags swaddled the baby and were then laced into the cradleboard.
An animal hide band near the top, embellished with beadwork or sewing,
would sling around the mother’s shoulders, allowing her to carry the baby on her back.

2018

Naapesis Ootapikan

Boy with braids

 

Oil on canvas with beads, sinew and branch

 

A portrait of my nephew, Aidan Dooley,
wearing his grass dancer regalia, his father is Anishinaabe
and from the Bear Clan. Aidan wears a bear paw medallion
and headpiece to represent his clan.
Since there is no longer a government ban on dancing,
I’ve noticed a resurgence of pow wow dancing throughout the communities.
My sister is introducing her children to pow wow dancing to carry on the tradition.

2018

Wizawiskiminum paskisigun

Blueberries and a gun

 

Oil on canvas with animal hide, beads, and branches

 

A portrait of my mother, Yvette Dooley (née Monias)
based on a photo from the late seventies.
I’ve painted my mother holding a bouquet of wild blueberries.
A gun is nestled in her pocket.

2017

Bulloony paskisigun

 Bologna and a gun

 

Oil on canvas with beads, animal hide, and branches

 

A portrait of my auntie Margaret Knott (née Monias),
based on a photo of her taken in the late seventies.
She has a bologna sandwich on her lap and is pointing a gun at the viewer.
This work is part of a series of three ribbon dress paintings depicting three women
in my life who I’m inspired by, capturing their strength and power. My grandfather
had a primarily female household and taught my mother and aunties to hunt and
set traps on the reserve to help feed the family. I wanted to have the power and
strength to represent Indigenous women, showing their resilience.

2017

Pukwesikan paskisigun

Bannock and a gun

 

Oil on canvas with beads, animal hide, metal embellishments, and branches.

 

A portrait of my auntie Annie Harper (née Monias)
based on a photo from the late seventies. She has bannock clenched
in one hand and her other hand placed on a gun on her hip.

2017

Jacket

Sara Jane Monias (Niamh Dooley’s Kookim/ Grandmother)

 

Animal hide and beadwork

 

From Niamh Dooley’s family collection

1985

Kookim

Grandmother

 

Found wood sculpture, oil on canvas with beads and animal hide

 

A portrait of my late kookim, Sarah Jane Monias,
with a recreation of beadwork from a jacket she made
for my father over 35 years ago. She is centred in a white wood frame,
reminiscent of portraits of loved ones in a home. This work references
the importance of matriarchal relationships in several Indigenous communities.

2018

Muskike

Medicines

 

Found wood sculpture, oil on canvas with sinew, beads and sweetgrass

 

Found wood sculpture, oil on canvas with sinew, beads and sweetgrass
Attached to a found wood ladder sculpture are two canvas paintings. This first is of a smudge bowl with traditional medicine,
and above it, a painting of a drum. Learning traditional drumming
and using these medicines for healing has become part of my family’s
traditions again.

2018

Wunukwish Wabiwan

Star Blanket

 

Letterpress on watercolour paper, pinecone water, sinew, pinecones, animal hide, and a branch

 

Twenty letterpress cards printed with #1-10 in Anishihinimowin
(Oji-Cree language, Island Lake region) were sewn together with sinew,
and feature a hand-painted star blanket design created using pinecone water.
The pinecones are from my community and are native to Treaty 5 territory.
Traditionally the pinecones were boiled in water which was drunk as a
treatment for sore throats. Star blankets are often used in ceremonies
or during special events, as a means of honouring someone and showing
them respect. I am honouring my mother’s first language and endeavouring
to learn the language.

2020

Kookim waabikwun beszhik

Kookim’s flowers one

 

Oil on canvas with beads

 

A recreation of my grandmother, Sarah Jane Monias’
beadwork from a gauntlet that she made, which has now been repurposed
into a necklace. My sisters and I all bead. We often look back to our
familial designs for inspiration to carry on their legacy.

2016

Sara Jane Monias (Niamh Dooley’s Kookim/ Grandmother)

Beadwork

 

Animal hide and beadwork

 

Treaty 5 territory
Niamh Dooley’s family collection

 

circa 1990

Kookim waabikwun niiszhin

Kookim’s flowers two

 

Oil on canvas with beads

 

A recreation of my great aunt (grandfather’s sister)
Laura Harper’s beadwork, found on a pair of moccasins. Honouring
the familial designs, in a much larger scale.

2016

Laura Harper (Great aunt to Niamh Dooley)

Moccasins

 

Animal hide and beadwork

 

Treaty 5 territory
Niamh Dooley’s family collection

 

circa 1990

Oomamajizan month wiiyash

Cutting moose meat

 

Oil on canvas with branch, sinew, and moose hair

 

Found wood sculpture, oil on canvas with sinew, beads and sweetgrass


This is a portrait of my oldest sister’s sister-in-law, Lilliana Chisel
cutting moose meat in the back of her truck. My sister’s in-law went moose
hunting and divided the moose meat amongst the all the families, including
ours. In my family, it was often the women who would cut up the moose,
rabbit, goose, or fish for the entire family.

2018

Objects from Treaty 6

Moccasins, handsewn and beaded

 

Smoked hide with beadwork

 

Treaty 6 territory

Shillinglaw Family collection

 

Child’s vest, beaded

 

Smoked hide with beadwork

 

Tanned hide with beadwork

Treaty 6 territory (Gifted by Harry Norris to his grandchildren,
Shillinglaw family Collection)

Beading supplies

 

Seed beads, needles, felt, ribbons and thread

 

Treaty 6 territory

Shillinglaw Family collection

Moccasins with beaded rose design/em>

 

Smoked hide with beads

 

Treaty 6 territory

Shillinglaw Family collection

Smudge kits

Treaty 6 territory

Art Gallery of St. Albert smudge kit, available for use in the Gallery
for Elders, artists, staff and community members.

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