My Grandmother’s Garden took Flora Weistche 3 years and 100s of hours to bead. It was inspired by her grandmother Helen Weistche who died in 1987. (Diane Icebound/CBC) The idea to bead an entire caribou hide came to Flora Weistche in a dream.
"I dreamt of my grandmother Helen sitting across the table from me, the caribou hide laid out on the table. When I looked at it, I could see the three main flowers in detail," said Weistche, who is from the Cree community of Waskaganish, in the James Bay region of Quebec, and is currently studying at Montreal’s Concordia University. Flora Weistche’s grandmother Helen Weistche. (George Legrady) Last caribou hide
Weistche’s mother gave her the hide in 2015. It was from the last caribou her father harvested back in 1979, the year Flora was born.
"I got up that next morning and I just picked up a sketchbook and I started drawing. And I took my caribou hide and I started beading," said Weistche.
Now three years and hundreds of hours of beading later, the 39-year-old unveiled the finished hide this past Friday in Val d’Or. For Canadian Indigenous women
"I think that caribou hide was meant to fall into my hands and I believe I [was] meant to do this project," said Weistche, who drew inspiration from many different parts of her life. She said the project is dedicated to all the women who have made a positive impact on her life, as well as to Indigenous women in the Cree Nation and across Canada. Flora Weistche’s grandmother Helen showed her a red flower connected to others in a dream in 2016. (Tristan Beauregard) "All the flowers are different, different colours, different shapes, different style of beading. That signifies all women are different," said Weistche.
"But the flowers they all have the same life cycle, which signifies [we all] have the same life cycle." Flora Weistche sketched what she saw in the dream of her grandmother Helen and a beaded caribou hide. The hide was from the last caribou her father Sanders harvested in 1979. (Flora Weistche) The name "My Grandmother’s Garden" (Nuuhkum Unihtaauchihchikin in Cree) is to honour her grandmother Helen, who used to take Weistche, who was 6 or 7 at the time, to tend local gardens in Waskaganish.
The name also pays tribute to Helen’s two sisters, as well as her first cousin Mary Katapatuk, who Weistche says she "adopted as my grandmother" and who still beads today at age of 100.
There are so many different threads of Weistche’s life beaded into the project, it’s hard to include them all.
Along with the three main flowers her grandmother Helen showed her in the dream, Weistche also included a recreation of Helen’s signature beaded flower that a cousin found on an old pair of moccasins.
There are flowers representing Weistche’s sisters, Pearl, Francine, Brenda and Carrie, who helped her finish the project; there is a butterfly, representing all the people dear to Weistche who have "passed into the spirit realm." Weistche incorporated a raised beading style she learned in Kahnawake, a Mohawk community near Montreal. She went regularly to buy her beads. (Tristan Beauregard ) There is also a white butterfly with a ribbon, dedicated to a close friend who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2018.
There are bumble bees and a hummingbird designed by Weistche’s 14-year-old son Tristan.
During the unveiling, the hide was showcased in a frame that Weistche’s father made using a technique typically used for making showshoes. At 100 years of age, Waskaganish Elder Mary Katapatuk (pictured in 2014) is referred to by many in […]
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