The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Profiles

For the past 50 years, Douglas Cardinal has been doing sweat lodge ceremonies to begin every week. They are healing practices for the Canadian architect due to the challenging environment of his profession.  

Reflecting on his 2016 presidential award for the Gordon Oaks Red Bear Student Center, he shares the moment an elder said to him, “I'll meet you at the institute.”

The award is from the Saskatchewan Masonry Institute.  Built as a place that was inclusive for all students from different backgrounds, the centre was built with Mother Earth in mind. 

“I wanted a place where they could have their ceremonies,” Cardinal said.  The area he talks about has input from elders who helped create a sacred space by a heaven and earth philosophy.  Underneath, the ground was not excavated during construction, because,“it had to be sitting on Mother Earth.”

Alex Hannigan’s passion for longboarding began when his brother first got a longboard; however, he never expected to become a professional in the sport. 

Now, the Calgarian has had several Top 10 finishes in the International Downhill Federation race circuit over the past six years.

Hannigan HelmetAlex Hannigan strapping up his longboard helmet. Photo by Cullen Chan.

Longboard racing is the crazy cousin to skateboarding; the extreme sport requires racers to speed down hills and drift through corners at speeds of up to 147 kilometres an hour, on skateboards of  36 to 40-inches. 

“Skateboarding would be more on flat ground or half pipes, where someone can jump up and grind,” explains Hannigan. “A longboard is designed to reach high speeds and has wheels that are a lot softer and  larger.”

Matt Korman, who plays on The University of Calgary’s baseball team, says the game is currently his number one priority, but his passion for music has him rethinking his plans for after graduation.

Korman, a full-time communications student is also the lead singer and bassist for the band Humbabe, named after baseball slang, combines his love of the sport with his musical pursuits.

If that all sounds like a pretty full plate, it’s because that's the way Korman likes life.

“I’ve always loved pursuing as much as I can,” Korman says. “It comes naturally to me, I love to be busy, and I don’t function well when I’m not busy.”

Sutter guitar photoMG 1734Sandra Sutter performing a song in her work place's spirit room. Photo by Sara Aldred.

On Cluster Stars, Sandra Sutter’s debut album, she explores her Indigenous heritage by telling the stories of others, and hopes the record will inspire Indigenous youth to pursue their own dreams as well.

As a Métis musician, Sutter performs songs related to past and current Indigenous issues to better understand her roots.

“I want to honour where I come from, that's where I feel connected,” says Sutter.

Adopted into a non-Indigenous family as a baby, Sutter has always felt different than her siblings.

“I was lucky because my family were very good people, very down to earth. And we had a very close group of family members, cousins and relatives and all of those we were able to spend a lot of time with. But as loved as a person is, and I was very lucky in the situation I was in, I just never felt like I belonged. I was always attracted to the land.”

Later on in life, Sutter wanted to find her Indigenous roots. Her adoptive parents were supportive in helping her find her birth family. Unfortunately, since her mother wasn’t in the birth registry, and her father had died before she turned 18, she was unable to connect with her biological parents. However, with the help of a friend, Sutter was able to locate members of her extended biological family.

For Sutter, her Métis background has had a large influence when it comes to music, so it naturally flows together for her. Sutter’s album, Cluster Stars, was written to help bring an understanding to Indigenous issues and help people see through the eyes of an Indigenous woman.

“I think it's in our heartbeat, the drums replicate our mother's heartbeat, our heartbeat and the heartbeat of mother earth,” says Sutter.

With organizations such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Idle No More and court cases involving Tina Fontaine and Colten Boushie, there’s a lot of coverage for conflicts between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. When Sutter wrote Cluster Stars, her vision was acceptance and ultimately peace between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

“I chose the songs that dealt with specific issues that impact Indigenous people: the 60’s scoop, murdered and missing women, veterans, and how women end up feeling like we're not enough. And nature, you know, the nature of the people. So all of those things that impact us, we need to find a positive resolution for them.”

Sutter adds she still experiences occasional racism and despite being a confident women, it still hurts.

"I think people are afraid of what they don't know and Indigenous people don't see the world the same way as non-Indigenous people see it. Our experience is not the same, but we have so many gifts to give to other cultures." -Sandra Sutter

Tweela Nepoose, Sutter’s friend, says that when she first heard a snippet of the new album, her eyes lit up.

“She tells those stories and those songs like everyone else, like any other artist does; but she tells it from an Indigenous heritage. She has a finesse of bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” Nepoose says

Kevin Watson, another friend of Sutter’s, explains how she’s inspired by her own culture.

“I saw that kind of evolution and growth in Sandra, to discovering her roots, to discovering her Métis heritage, and then putting that together with the musical and lyrical talents that she always had.”

Indigenous youth are treasured within Indigenous communities, as are elders, but for quite different reasons. Sutter says that youth are the future of their communities and she’s very excited from what she sees from young people today because they’re more likely to become successful in their careers. She adds that having success allows Indigenous youth to return to their communities and contribute back to the wellness of their homes.

“I get to talk to youth, and there's nothing more amazing in our world-the potential of youth and their closeness to the Creator. They get to experience the world and create something beautiful and new.”   

By increasing Indigenous representation in mainstream media, Sutter and other Indigenous artists have paved the way for Indigenous youth to be more accepted in society, inspiring them to pursue their own dreams.  

By having songs that speak about Indigenous issues, Sutter helps people understand the pain Indigenous people have gone through for hundreds of years. The bridge she speaks of between Indigenous and non-Indigenous is being built, slowly but surely.

“That message has to speak to all of us because social issues that impact Indigenous peoples, they impact everyone. It's like the talk of truth and reconciliation, a conversation for all of us.”

Sutter’s album, Cluster Stars, is available to stream on Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube.