Sunday, November 10, 2019

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Seek and Ye Shall Find

It was 1995. Flight from Yellowknife, NT to Johannesburg, SA was booked; bags packed.


Prior to that though, a story about one of my sculptures, “The North Pole Man,” was published in the WALL STREET JOURNAL, no less. The story caught the attention of a Catherine Thicke, Art Director from the UK and one organizing “One World Art, The Right to Hope.” An exhibit showcasing a number of Indigenous artists from around the world which was to celebrate the 50thanniversary of the creation of the United Nations. Apparently, based on that article published in the Wall Street Journal, I was “the Man” from Canada. Invitation was accepted…why not?

Official Book published
I did have a piece of Carrera marble laying around in my studio and was wondering what to make out of it. The Invitation was the Inspiration. Given the theme of the exhibition, I thought of melding the affinity the Inuit have with the land and sea. Therein, lies what you see in the sculpture created…giving life to our land-based feature of an Inukshuk combined with Sedna, the Sea-Goddess. The braiding of the hair is significant as it symbolizes her contentment with the Inuit and sea creatures. Sculpture was completed, photographed, and shipped a month prior to my flight.

I then quickly applied for a Canada Council for the Arts travel grant and was successful.

After a day and a half and a few thousand airmiles, I ended up in Johannesburg in time for the opening of the exhibition. There, I met other Indigenous artists from around the world and met Catherine Thicke, the Art Director and organizer. However, I sensed something different about her. Other artists also concurred. She was extremely aloof and unfriendly, unusual for someone in charge. We all figured…oh well. 

Our assurance from Catherine was the exhibit was to tour the world and we would all be kept informed. I left the exhibit and flew home to Yellowknife…never to hear from Catherine ever. Throughout the years since, I let the loss of my art-piece slide with the sunset. Only a memory remained. Still hope too remained and two years ago, I felt the sunrise.

With the advent of social media, I registered with #Twitter and sent out a tweet with the image of my sculpture to all my followers and also tweeted to renowned athletes such as Tiger, Roger, Rafa, Serena, Caroline, LeBron, Artists too like Bob, Bryan, Mick, Bonnie, U2, and even then, PM, Stephen Harper…” I had tweeted, “Please share and let me know if and when you see my sculpture “somewhere” in the world. It has to exist somewhere.”

Lo and behold!!

How’s this for timing? On National Aboriginal Day, June 21st, 2017, I received an email from someone in Sarajevo, Bosnia. “Hey, Angus. I came across your tweet and, I think, this (picture) is what you’re looking for?” If so, I was going to buy it from someone here in Sarajevo. I want to do the right thing and see if you still want it back?”


After not seeing it all those years, you can imagine the feeling of elation within. Now, the challenge was how do I get there and pick it up? Money for sure.

Finally, as you have seen on Facebook, my adventurous story on getting there and back last week.

Since I was invited to speak on Inuit art and culture in Switzerland, I figured why not jump over to Bosnia and get my sculpture. The guy I was communicating with was only the messenger as he had said an older man had it in his house and could not speak English…and wanted $1000 just to give it to me. I tried to bargain but it was not working. There was no way but to comply…somewhat gladly though.

Along the way, as noted I had passport issues and the Canadian Embassy in Belgrade and Air Serbia staff had warned me of “shady” characters in Sarajevo...Be careful they warned. Still, I had a good gut feeling.

In the end, the old man met me in the hotel lobby as scheduled and was extremely happy with the money. We parted with smiles and a hand-shake only.

Thank you #SocialMedia, she made it home…finally. Now, peacefully this time, I watch another sunset.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Generating Genesis...

It is written…

"Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it."  Genesis 1:26 (King James Bible version)

 “Employment program helps Yellowknife’s homeless turn their lives around.”

So read the headline written and posted by a Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi on CBC News, January 01, 2019.


'"This job] gives me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day," says Lee Abel, one of Yellowknife’s homeless men.

A number of years ago while a Board member on the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF), I had advised the Board that the key to “healing” Residential School Survivors and Aboriginal people in general was to meet their need for a sense of significance. Apparently, that seemed too simple even to the then Chair of the AHF and non-Survivor, George Erasmus. My argument, in the end, was it’s all about how one “feels.”  It’s evident Lee Abel is “feeling it.”

"[This job] gives me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day,"

It is evident too that since the time of Genesis, man has not changed. The challenge today though is for one to find their Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.

photo by Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi

Although homeless, seems Lee Abel has found his Garden. How does that make him feel?
“…he likes his job because it keeps him busy and "out of trouble."

Before working with Common Ground, Abel kept himself occupied drinking to pass time, he said.

Since June, Abel has been working with Common Ground — a local initiative that employs the city's homeless. In a little over half a year, he's started to turn his life around. With his paycheques he's been able to buy new clothes and a cellphone to keep in touch with his employer.

I know for certain, the AHF spent over $400 million dollars trying to heal Aboriginal people. I know for certain too, as one who engages with the ever-increasing Aboriginal inmates in one of Canada’s penitentiaries, seems that money was wasted.

Abel said he likes his job because it keeps him busy and "out of trouble." Before working with Common Ground, Abel kept himself occupied drinking to pass time, he said.
"This keeps me out of that rut."

For Lee Abel, all he had to do was find his Garden of Eden and feel like a somebody; …he just changed his attitude and it cost nothing.

Evidently, he wants to tend and keep it too. High five, Brother!!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Young Inuk stands sitting down!

“Iqaluit student sits during national anthem to make statement about residential school curriculum.”
So read the headline published and posted on-line on the CBC News website, Oct 22, 2018. See link below.
As you know, languages including English evolve to the point when catch phrases become the norm, i.e. groovy, awesome, what’s up, cool, etc. Seems, lately though the norm catch phrase is, “Hey, what’s goin’ on”… used nonchalantly especially when one meets an acquaintance or a close-friend. I know I use it all the time.
In the context of this story though, seems young 12 year-old Inuk kid, Miles Brewster of Iqaluit, NU, is seriously asking his teacher, “Hey, what’s goin’ on?”

As most Canadians should now know, post awareness of the former PM Stephen Harper’s apology in 2008, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and the current Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) process, Residential Schools left a lasting legacy previously unchecked but now mandated and “should be” main-stream where students are learning about the history of Residential Schools within the schools’ curricula.  I guess young Inuk Miles’ didn’t think so and spurred on action and, “sat down to make a statement” during the national anthem.  Apparently, his teacher was not sharing the purpose of Orange Shirt Day; a day to remember those who attended Residential School.

For those who did attend Residential School, like me, we never did have the confidence to stand up to our teachers and make the same statement, “hey, what’s goin’ on,”… instead just obeyed and stood at attention to God Save the Queen and O’ Canada. Back then, we weren’t making history but just ended up being part of history. And, as young Inuk Miles has said correctly, “They (we) had to go to Residential School.” Therein lies the truth…”we had to.” No questions asked.
Times have changed and young Inuk Miles just wants to, I guess, understand that part of his history when, what, why, and how were, “his mother and step-father’s (past) experiences in Residential Schools” and a time when they “had to.” No questions asked.
But, young Inuk Miles, in his own way, stood up for his mother and step-father and all of us Survivors as “he sat down to make a statement.”
And, like back in Residential School when one was seen as disobedient, young Inuk Miles “was sent to the office…as one trying to be a troublemaker.” No questions asked.
Throughout my years, I’ve learned to be uncommon and it’s ok to go against the grain to be successful and, I think, the sooner one learns that, the better. It’s great to see young Inuk Miles be so uncommon already.
Apparently though, his Principal wants no part of his question, “Hey, what’s goin’ on?” Keep standing up for us Inuk Miles…just do it sitting down.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Murray Sinclair?...Dim-Witt?

Murray Sinclair?...Dim-Witt?

"They (non-Aboriginal) deny, perhaps, because they're slow-minded and dim-witted,.." Murray Sinclair

So said Murray Sinclair, former Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on a recent CBC broadcast of THE CURRENT with Anna Maria Tremonti.

Yes, there were some bad things that occurred at the former residential schools such as sexual, physical, and mental abuse. All well documented especially in the final report of the TRC once chaired by Murray Sinclair and who was subsequently “rewarded” with a Senate appointment.

As a Survivor of 13 years of residential school at Grollier Hall, a former residence operated by the Catholic Church and located in Inuvik, NT., I know very well the bad but for the sake of the whole truth, one must never deny the good also.

As we know, Sinclair is not a Survivor of residential school and may know of the experience but will never understand the full experience. Too bad. Anyway, he chose to, along with his Commissioners, to not tell the whole “truth” in his final TRC report. Instead, they focused on the negative for sure. Therefore, I have to side with Senator Lynn Beyak latest comments regarding the “good.”

“Obviously, the negative issues must be addressed, but it is unfortunate that they are sometimes magnified and considered more newsworthy than the abundance of good,” Beyak said.” Lynn Beyak, THESTAR.COM

Regarding the “good,” the Catholic Church at Grollier Hall supported a program of active sports including hockey, soccer, basketball, badminton, floor hockey, soft ball, snooker, and chess just to name a few. Our teams in those respective sports were very competitive against other teams and, in fact, captured a number of regional championships. However, the greatest “good” in sports the Catholic Church did support then was the Territorial Experimental Ski Training (TEST) program.

The late Father Mouchet
The TEST program was inspired by the late Catholic priest, Father Jean Marie Mouchet; thank God. Rest in peace my friend. Father Mouchet saw the “good” and potential of us natives to excel in the sport of cross country ski racing given our outdoor and active lifestyle and being natural athletes.

As a result of that program and while still attending Residential School, a number of Survivors were named to the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics. In fact, six of the nine members of Canada’s Olympic team were Aboriginal; isn’t that “good?”

TEST skiers of 1970; back then National Champs
and Canadian members of the 1972 Winter Olympics and
pictured with the late PM Pierre Trudeau.
I, myself, chose to participate in the TEST program and won a number of national junior championships and was the 1975 Canada Winter Games Champion in cross country skiing. Now, the legacy of “good” lives on as my boy, Jesse Cockney, was named to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and now competes on the World Cup circuit.

I see and read about the uproar of Lynn Beyak’s comments from a number of Aboriginal Leaders but it is quite understandable as they choose to ignore the whole truth.

I know the truth, I was there. Senator Sinclair could learn a lot by acknowledging the truth and like Senator Lynn Beyak should not be in denial.

Judging by the applause Sinclair receives, seems he's regarded as the god of "truth" when it comes to the experience of all residential school Survivors'

While he continues to deny the truth and not convey the good, he will not get my applause...who's the dim-witt here?
A young Angus Cockney, former National Champion and son, Jesse Cockney, 2014 Olympian. Thank you Father Mouchet; the Legacy of "good" continues.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Harper sorry, but...

 “Labrador residential-schools survivors to press for federal compensation”

So read the headline published on-line in the GLOBE AND MAIL, dated Nov. 18, 2014.

As you know, Prime Minister Harper made national news in June of 2008 on live TV when he had apologized to Canada’s Aboriginal people regarding the establishment of and subsequent physical, sexual, and mental abuses experienced in all the former residential schools across the country. I should know, I was one of those students.

The compensation for those abuses inflicted on Survivors continue; enter the latest… the Labrador Inuit.

Much like the medical and dental care offered to Aboriginal people, Harper’s apology was and is apparently limited. The article reads, in part:

Lawyers for the federal government deny it was responsible for five schools that opened before the province joined Confederation in 1949.

I have some news and what could be presented as evidence for those hard-nosed lawyers.
As some may know, I was the appointed Inuit Board Member on the now-defunct Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) from 1999 to 2004. The AHF’s mandate was to distribute up to $400 million dollars to “eligible recipients” who wanted to address the healing needs of the legacy of physical and sexual abuses in the residential schools. Records will show Harper’s lawyers that two of the “eligible recipients” were from Labrador: the Nunatsiavut Government and the Labrador Legal Services.

Case closed? I might say.  After all, the AHF was routinely audited by Harper’s lawyers to ensure the AHF adhered to the Funding Agreement. Due diligence on their part would have challenged us, Board Members, to not approve the above noted projects. Still, the Labrador Inuit residential schools were regarded as “eligible recipients.” Case closed?

The two thumbs up given by Inuit Survivor, Sarah Aggek (pictured) speaks a thousand words.

For the government though, it will likely symbolize thousands more dollars…I’m sorry, Harper.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Harper needs double-barrelled Ministers?

“Resources Minister Rickford faces aboriginal backlash over Enbridge project.”

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL, dated March 21, 2014 and written by a Shawn McCarthy.

Perhaps, the headline should have read, “…continued backlash…?”

As you know, “Following a cabinet shuffle prompted by Jim Flaherty’s resignation, former minister of state for science Greg Rickford has taken over the natural resources post from Joe Oliver, who replaces Mr. Flaherty as finance minister.

As you know too, Prime Minister Stephen Harper once said the proposed Enbridge Gateway project is a “ no-brainer.” Therefore, for the newly appointed (Natural) Resources Minister, the “looming” decision to go-ahead with the National Energy Board’s recommendation to approve the project should also be a no-brainer. I don’t think he will want to contradict or disappoint his leader.

However, one must question the timing of the change to replace Joe Oliver as that move may also indicate the lack of value the Prime Minister has in “Aboriginal” relations regarding resource development especially the proposed Enbridge project?

Replacing Oliver with Rickford is untimely and has certainly added to the aboriginal backlash already well known especially within the BC communities. Now, Rickford will likely need to connect with former Environment and Indian Affairs Minister, Jim Prentice, contracted by Enbridge “ to negotiate with aboriginal communities on its behalf” and try to establish trust and meaningful relationships with potentially affected First Nations.

These two new faces though will likely do little to quell the “continued” backlash that will certainly persist even when the new Minister Rickford approves the go-ahead come July 2014. After all, “…said Art Sterrit, executive director of Coastal First Nations, which represents nine nations on the B.C. coast. “There’s no way anybody in B.C. is going to support that project any time soon.”

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Enbridge's Apprentice, Jim Prentice

“Enbridge turns to Jim Prentice for pipeline help.
Can Jim Prentice save Northern Gateway?
Company hopes former Indian Affairs minister can help win support of First Nations.”

So read the headlines published in the GLOBE AND MAIL, dated March 06, 2014 and written by a Mark Hume.

Seems, Enbridge is looking for an approval within an approval, after all, it is no secret the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline has been given a conditional nod, “approval with conditions” by the National Energy Board.  Prime Minister (PM), Stephen Harper, and his federal cabinet will no doubt give the final nod this July. After all too, the PM once said, “it’s a no-brainer.”

Still, 130 aboriginal bands have signed a declaration against the project. Enter Jim Prentice, former cabinet minister whose files did include the environment and Indian affairs.

“I know there is a lot of heavy lifting to be done and it starts with listening.”

Apparently, paying attention to those 130 aboriginal bands opposed to the project is a bit of ire to Enbridge’s ear. I guess one could surmise too, Enbridge’s Aboriginal Relations unit has fallen short of establishing the trust imperative to engaging with First Nations. Listening will not be enough.

“Al Monaco, chief executive officer of Enbridge, said in a statement that he hopes Mr. Prentice can help the company build trust with First Nations.”

Establishing trust within any working relationship should be first and foremost and is always regarded as a best practice.

“We (Enbridge) believe Jim Prentice is uniquely suited to help us fulfill that promise.”

I guess Jim Prentice will have to do more than just listen.