Needle, Bead, and Voice: Learning about Yukon First Nations Traditional Sewing from Mrs. Annie Smith and Ms. Dianne Smith


  • Nicole Bauberger


(Excerpt from Introduction)

A pair of moccasins lies on its foam and tissue paper in a government art collection, or gets worn around the house. Sometimes the name of the artist who made them is known, but too seldom. What are the stories in those slippers? There is room for our collective understanding of traditional sewing as an art form to grow. Traditional sewing, like contemporary art, is a phrase that finds meaning in its context rather than its component words. Contemporary art, as understood in its circles, does not generally include, for example, that of today’s Sunday watercolour painters, although their art also takes place in our time. In the Yukon and many other places, traditional sewing is generally understood to refer to Indigenous sewing traditions, and usually takes the form of vests, moccasins, mukluks, gauntlet mitts, and so on. It includes an active art community in our contemporary world. This article comes out of a research project undertaken in 2014-15 to learn about traditional sewing from Kwanlin Dun First Nation Elders Mrs. Annie Smith and her daughter Ms. Dianne Smith who are both respected sewing teachers in their community. I believe that there is much to learn from these women, and from the artists who practice traditional sewing. Bringing their voices into company with their artworks will enrich all of us, in the Yukon and beyond, First Nations and non-First Nations alike. After the research process, I came across constructivist educational theory. It seems to define knowledge as that which “we constuct for ourselves as we learn” (Dewey, 1938, qtd in Hein, 2011, p. 44). This definition helped me realize that I wanted to learn about how Mrs. Smith and Dianne construct meanings from traditional sewing.

Author Biography

Nicole Bauberger

Visual artist based in Whitehorse




Cover Art