Lor Brand is a Métis beadworker from Winnipeg, MB in Treaty 1 territory who works to be closer to culture, connect with community, and to increase positive Indigenous visibility in all spaces.
I’m going to continue this in first person because it’s important to me, and I hate being that formal…
Where I Come From
Growing up, I knew I was Métis from the Indigenous art on my Grandmère’s walls, from the doll in regalia she gifted me, and from when my Pepère would do a little jig in his apartment kitchen. But I never grew up in tradition or culture – only caught little glimpses of it.
Like many Métis from my Grandmère’s generation, she was pressured by colonialism and racism to be quiet about who she was, and because of that, our Métis culture was lost through the generations.
Working in marketing and communications, I had the opportunity to work with Manito Ahbee Festival and Festival du Voyageur. Through those festivals, I went to ceremony, supported Indigenous artists, and was immersed in Indigenous culture for the first time.
With the help of some beadworkers working for Festival du Voyageur, I was able to learn two-needle beading and haven’t stopped since.
Before learning to bead, I was hesitant to even wear beadwork as a white-passing woman that grew up outside my culture, never mind practice beadwork. I don't look Métis like my mom and brother do – darker-skinned and black-haired (I know Métis people don't look one certain way, just bear with me here).
My pale skin, auburn hair and freckles have lent me a lot of privilege, but they've also given me a solid amount insecurity when it comes to identity.
After speaking with many folks in my community, I realized by not wearing or practicing beadwork, I was essentially assimilating myself. I was doing exactly what the Canadian government wanted 200 years ago and arguably still today.
I needed to be proud on behalf of my mother, who was never taught her culture, my grandmother, who was told to be quiet about her culture, and for all the strong Indigenous matriarchs before them.
I realized that standing up and taking up space as a bead-adorned Métis woman is important, regardless of whether I looked Indigenous or not. Since I started beading, I have never felt more connected to my community, my ancestors, and myself.
This story is a common one across the prairies.
What I Do Now
I now work to help other Métis folks across Turtle Island find their roots that may have receded over time. This repatriation through craft starts with stitching beads onto fabric and continues with more Métis people being proud of who they are, knowing their history, and passing that on to other Métis people seeking culture and community.
An important part of my beadwork practice is connecting non-Indigenous folks to Indigenous culture in a positive way through selling beadwork and teaching workshops. By wearing beadwork, they are bringing Indigenous art into all sorts of spaces that may not have Indigenous representation.
Through workshops, non-Indigenous folks learn a traditional Indigenous cultural practice while learning about Indigenous history, culture, and contemporary life, which helps build understanding, empathy and respect for Indigenous peoples.
I lost my family’s Métis last name, Proulx, because of patriarchy. My ancestor, Paul Proulx, was a part of Louis Riel’s Red River Rebellion, and that work isn’t done. Beadwork is my way of continuing that legacy.