As part of Indigenous Awareness Week, TRU has partnered with local Indigenous artist Kel-c Jules. Jules is an artist who works in partnership with the local school district as an Aboriginal education worker to help teach young people about the value of traditional Tk’emlups te Secwepemc art.
“I work for the school district as an aboriginal education worker. I’m also an artist,” Jules told The Omega. “I’ve had works in Arnica, the Vancouver airport, loads of other places. I like teaching it, that’s why I’m here. I like to teach as much as I can so as soon I learn something new, I teach it. I actually just learned how to make rattles last Summer. I like using materials people have and are accessible. So these [rattles] are actually just dog chews that are rolled up. We soak them, cut out the shape, sew them together, fill them with sand, let them dry and then paint them.”
While this is not how rattles were conventionally made, Jules says that this approach is more affordable and easier for people to learn.
“You can use different materials as well, so proper rawhide, you can use that. If I was going to make something for an art gallery or for the airport per se, I wouldn’t be using dog chews,” she said. “I would use proper deer or moose hide.”
Rattles and drums are not the only thing that Jules teaches her students. She also teaches pine needle basket weaving and all about the Secwepemc culture more broadly, ranging from tools and technology to the language and to traditions.
Much of the art Jules commissions is based on her experience with residential schools. But rather than being weighed down by the crimes of the past she aims to rise above the connotations commonly associated with the schools.
“How I view it is, it’s not something that victimizes me. I’m not a victim of it. My grandma and my dad went but that doesn’t mean I have to dwell in the past and stay there. It’s something that’s more empowering to me and if I can teach other people, the young people, how to overcome certain things that might hold them back then I’m doing my job. That’s my goal, to show them that it doesn’t have to hold you back.”