Histoire de l'artiste
My family moved back to Fort Smith so we could be closer to my grandparents. My grandmother only used to crochet or knit, so I learned to sew from other people in the community of Fort Smith when I was about 9 years old.
I loved living here so much that I decided to stay and raise our own family here. We had a large Métis family of six children, and now I am even a Setsune’ (“grandmother” in Chipewyan). I love to sew for them! I am making sure all my grandchildren have a dress-up hat and one with flaps. Now that they are bigger, I’m also making mitts for them.
I flesh the beavers myself to get the material I need. I find that if you tan your own hides, it breathes better – compared to commercial hides that make your hands sweat. Years ago, I made a deal with my husband, I said: “If you clean my fish, I’ll flesh your beavers”. It was a good trade because there were more fish than beavers!
I always make sure my mitts are warm, and that the lining is well done. I’m proud of what I make, so if it’s not perfect or to my liking, I will take it apart and do it again. It’s just part of who I am. I also love to share my traditional knowledge with anyone who is interested to learn, especially with my family. My children are all very busy, but my granddaughter told me she’d like to learn to bead; so I am looking forward to that!
Chipewyan elder, Mrs. Jane Dragon has lived in Fort Smith for most of her life. She and her late husband, David, trapped on their trapline and provided many of the furs she works with today. Mrs. Dragon has been sewing traditional native garments and crafts since she was a young child. Her work has been showcased extensively and is worn by proud owners across the world. She has attended World Expositions in both Canada and Germany as a featured artist. In the past, Jane's sewing had been highlighted in a personal display of her work with furs and hide, including a representation of the various stages of moose hide tanning in the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. Currently, there is a beautiful display to be discovered in the Northern Life Museum in Fort Smith.
Recognition of Jane's contribution to the promotion and preservation of aboriginal art has been significant; she is a rarity receiving all three of the prestigious Queen's Jubilee Medals (Gold, Silver and Diamond) for both her community service and stewardship of the traditional Aboriginal way of life. Mrs. Dragon was awarded the distinguished NWT Wise Woman Award in 2002, and is a very wise woman, indeed. Often called upon for her vast knowledge of Aboriginal culture and her down to earth common sense about matters of life, Mrs. Dragon is still very much involved in her community.
Raising a large Metis family of 6 children, she is now 75 year old grandmother (Setsune’ in chipewyan) to 12, recently, is a proud great grandmother to two little girls! Setsune’ willingly shares her traditional knowledge and is famous for her hockey bags full of aboriginal art/sewing and northern furs, boasting fur bearing pelts for every animal of the NWT . She continues to delight many with her daily cooking of country foods; moose stews, geese, ducks and bannock! Mmmmm.