Heather Shillinglaw, an Appetogasan, Cree/Dene, Salteaux Chipewyan & Scots/French looked to her Awas Nohkom’s (Grandmothers before) for guidance by contemplating the bush for healing, life and sustainability. They carried all they owned, balancing their lives within the landscape and following the buffalo.
Shillinglaw aspires to make art to honor them. Listening to the sage advice by Elders and Knowledge keepers inclusive of working with anthropologists of the South American indigenous tribes - Maputches and Guarani medicine women. This cultural sharing combined with historians and scholars to make art, blending concepts of body, mind, and spirit becomes woven messages through her practice. Her experiences weave ideas of design beadwork, materials painting, sewing and sculpture evolves a milieu of ideas to convey multiple messages.
Art evolves in her own storytelling and re-telling of familial oral histories. Paramount to her practice is sharing knowledge through art in workshops and school programs. Using land based philosophies and narration to help students create their masterpiece. She pulls on the hearts and minds of her students as she conveys how art can convey a voice beyond the bush. In her instructional studio practice, she teaches her own philosophy called MEAM: “Metis Ecological, Arts Message” as another layer of land based learning methods. Thousand of students, taught in many schools, on reservations, community programming, and workshops abroad, with information exchanges in the USA, South America and Europe. She is currently employed by The Art Gallery of St. Albert as the Indigenous Visual Arts Programmer. Her dream is to bring this message throughout the community on a continuing basis.