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.


ehema nintehi mikowinduhwihkow nitankoopabanak ekes meena kitakiiminan, From Heart to Ancestors and the Land

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

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 ancestors, my maternal bloodline, and continuing this knowledge to future generations.

 

 

 

 


Tikinagan, Cradleboard

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 


Naapesis Ootapikan, Boy with braids

Oil on canvas with beads, sinew and branch, 2018.

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.

 

 

 

 

 


Wizawiskiminum paskisigun, Blueberries and a gun

Oil on canvas with animal hide, beads, and branches, 2017.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Bulloony paskisigun, Bologna and a gun

Oil on canvas with beads, animal hide, and branches, 2017.

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.

 

 

 

 

 


Pukwesikan paskisigun, Bannock and a gun

Oil on canvas with beads, animal hide, metal embellishments, and branches, 2017.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Jacket

Animal hide and beadwork, 1985.

Sara Jane Monias (Niamh Dooley’s Kookim/ Grandmother). From Niamh Dooley’s family collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Kookim, Grandmother

Found wood sculpture, oil on canvas with beads and animal hide, 2018.

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.

 

 

 

 


Muskike, Medicines

Found wood sculpture, oil on canvas with sinew, beads and sweetgrass, 2018.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Wunukwish Wabiwan, Star Blanket

Letterpress on watercolour paper, pinecone water, sinew, pinecones, animal hide, and a branch, 2020.

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.

 

 

 

 


Kookim waabikwun beszhik, Kookim’s flowers one

Oil on canvas with beads, 2016.

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.

 

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

Animal hide and beadwork, circa 1990.

Treaty 5 territory, Niamh Dooley’s family collection.

 

 


Kookim waabikwun niiszhin, Kookim’s flowers two

Oil on canvas with beads, 2016.

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.

 

Laura Harper (Great aunt to Niamh Dooley), Moccasins

Animal hide and beadwork, circa 1990.

Treaty 5 territory, Niamh Dooley’s family collection.

 

 


Oomamajizan month wiiyash, Cutting moose meat

Oil on canvas with branch, sinew, and moose hair, 2018.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

360 View


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

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.


Cradleboard / tihkinâkan (Cree)

Wood, cloth, animal hide, sewing and beadwork

Cradleboards allow mothers to carry their babies on their backs. The child is kept close, always able to hear mothers voice, and able to see the world around it.

Treaty 6 territory, From the collection of the Musée Heritage Museum


Exhibition Photos