I was very fortunate to take part in a workshop called Her Braids last week. The workshop is led by Sunshine Quem Tenasco. She is the founder of Her Braids and is an Indigenous woman (Anishinabe) from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, Quebec. Her workshop is a three hour session that teaches people how to do traditional beadwork.
The workshop is about a lot more than beading though. Sunshine begins her workshop by sharing her story. She grew up in Kitigan Zibi, which is just 1.5 hours away from the nation’s capital, Ottawa. Sunshine shared that when she first moved away from her community for higher education she would always ask “Can I drink the water here?”. She shared with us that people would always look at her funny, “of course you can”, they would say.
For Sunshine, the answer to this question for most of her life was not “of course”. Her community of Kitigan Zibi has gone without clean drinking water for a total of 15 years. YES THAT’S RIGHT – 15 years. In CANADA.
She also recalls a pipe bursting in Quebec. People were FREAKING out. Every hour on the hour the radio was talking about how to boil water. After a few hours, it dawned on her that her community didn’t get this same kind of outrage and she knew she wanted to do something to bring attention to the issue. And then Her Braids was born.
Through the workshop you get to create a one of a kind piece of jewelry with Sunshine helping you learn along the way.
The jewelry that you take away from this workshop becomes your tool for raising awareness. Every time someone compliments your jewelry or asks where it’s from, you can use it as an opportunity to educate.
Her Braids has partnered with the Suzuki Foundation in support of the blue dot movement. This movement is trying to put pressure on the Canadian government to recognize every person’s right to clean air and water, safe food, and a stable climate.
Here is my final product!