ARC honours Indigenous veterans with beaded poppies

by | Nov 8, 2019 | Campus News, News

Donna Akbari, News Reporter

Where some people see an event of relaxation and art, Gillian Maskell sees the annual Poppy Beading Workshop as a day to remember her veteran ancestors through her love of beading.

“Ever since I can remember, Remembrance Day has always been an important day for me,” the first-year Funeral Services student said.

“Remembrance is a day of honour, reflection, a day to pay our respects to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Maskell said.

ARC invited Humber’s community to make beaded poppies ahead of Indigenous Veterans Day on Nov. 8. (Donna Akbari)

She said it’s to remember the conflicts between the First World War up to Afghanistan and those who are still serving overseas.

“We remember the lives lost through we must keep in mind of those who came back physically or mentally changed forever,” Maskell said.

Though she has dabbled in beading she never made her own poppy.

“This event means the world to me, I always wanted to bead my own poppy to wear on Remembrance Day to honour my ancestors through their art,” said Maskell, of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek-Whitefish Lake First Nation.

“My people fought in both world wars,” where thousands volunteered and worked hand-in-hand with their comrades, Maskell said. “It’s sad when I think of how Indigenous people were mistreated by the Canadian government, especially veteran soldiers who were sacrificed for their country.

“To be able to honour my ancestors with a beaded poppy only feels right,” she said.

Maskell said she is grateful for both the Aboriginal Resource Centre and Humber College for supporting awareness about the issues about the ill-treatment of Indigenous peoples imposed upon by the Canadian government.

“For me, this is more than just a workshop, it’s more than just art, in a way it gives me a sense of hope for the future,” Maskell said.

Lorralene Whiteye, Indigenous Outreach Coordinator, said interactive environments helps draw attention to a number of issues.

“I enjoy what I do, it’s an opportunity to share the art of beading and it makes me happy to see participants proudly wearing their beading poppies,” she said.

She makes beaded poppies every year to honour her grandparents, both veterans of the Vietnam War.

“Our people sacrificed so much in times of war,” Whiteye said. “These poppies are made with the promise that we will continue to remember our ancestors and we will their stories alive.”

She said she loves this event because it’s an inclusive environment where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people come together and share stories of loss and remembrance.

“It’s truly a heart-lifting workshop,” Whiteye said. 

Not all participants were Indigenous but also those with an interest and respect for the Indigenous arts and Indigenous culture.

“I found out about this event through one of my friends,” said Shyanne Knox, a first-year Funeral Services student. “I decided to come because it’s a way to remember those who are underrepresented in the community especially those who served our country.”

Knox said she doesn’t think her beading skills could do the art justice.

“Meeting like-minded people and sharing veteran stories while working with art,” she said. “It’s a beautiful way to remember those who have passed and those who have fought for Canada.”