Many years ago, the Cree gifted the Métis with the name Otipemisewak, or “the people who own themselves.”
This honour was bestowed upon the Métis to acknowledge that their identity is not partly European and partly Indigenous; they are wholly their own. This independence, resilience, and spirit was beautifully captured by Prince George-based artist Erin Stagg, who created a series of acrylic paintings illustrating stories of the Métis people through the lens of her own family history. Two Rivers Gallery is thrilled to share these stories with the community in a Galleria exhibition from March 17 to May 7.
Stagg makes translating years of history into a visual story look easy. Her paintings combine depictions of hardships and triumphs experienced by her ancestors with dreamlike references to her family’s practice of beadwork, weaving a tapestry of old and new, real and imagined. The clusters of tiny dots representing beads on Stagg’s paintings took hundreds of hours and are a nod to the labour of this traditional Indigenous art form, which she has recently endeavoured to learn in addition to her painting practice. The result of her efforts is a visually captivating story of displacement, colonization, strength, and love that stretches far back in time and continues to unfold into the future.
Erin Stagg grew up in Fort St. James and currently resides in Prince George. Her passion for the land led her to studies of biology and physical geography at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, which further informs her artistic practice. Living surrounded by the forest, being educated in the Dakelh culture, and living in a small town have been incredibly influential in Stagg’s life. She presently lives in Prince George with her husband and daughter. About showing her work at Two Rivers Gallery, Stagg says, “Growing up in this area, I was never exposed to Métis stories. I didn’t know what it meant to be
Métis. There was a stigma to being Métis that stopped our stories from being passed down. This
collection brings the stories of my family history to light and celebrates them in a loving way. My hope is
that other Métis people might find a sense of kinship and love for their own family stories.”
What do you think about this story?