High school student uses art to express her Indigenous identity
EDMONTON -- A 17-year-old high school student from Edmonton is creating vibrant artwork to express her Indigenous identity – incorporating animals specific to Indigenous culture such as eagles, bears and wolves.
Jewel Auger, a Grade 12 student at Louis St. Laurent Catholic High School, began using art as a way to express her Indigenous identity. Combining drawing tips from online sources and using her own creative mind, Auger began drawing to “represent an underrepresented group.”
The young artist, who describes herself as shy, said she felt cautious at first to open up about her identity since she was one of few Indigenous students in her school.
“There are barely any Aboriginal kids in my school – like, very little,” she said.
The artwork was originally created for her close family members, but she soon received plenty of support and excitement from teachers and classmates.
“It felt really nice to know students and other teachers saw it. It lets me know I’m doing something right,” she said.
Auger told CTV News Edmonton that her mother taught her about residential schools and the intergenerational trauma involved. Auger’s mother and grandmother attended residential schools, which she says affected their entire lives.
After the remains of 215 children were found on the grounds of the residential school in Kamloops, B.C.,Auger said it created a conversation amongst younger students.
“I think it’s good that it is in the news and even on social media. Almost every day I go on Instagram and I see people in my school posting little posts about what happened in B.C.,” said Auger. “It’s fairly shocking because we don’t really get recognition – especially teenagers. They don’t really post about that stuff.”
Shannon Loutitt, a grad coach, says art for Indigenous people plays a very important role in representing culture, spirituality and language.
“People like Jewel highlight that people like us also carry intergenerational strength given to us by our ancestors,” said Loutitt.
Michelle Zapisocky, an art teacher, said she had the privilege of watching Auger grow from a quiet junior high student to a young woman.
“It’s fantastic to have other students and teachers see this side of Jewel because she is a quieter student. I feel her voice has become louder and louder through her artwork,” said Zapisocky.
Zapisocky said she was patiently awaiting Auger’s decision to express her Indigenous identity through artwork.
“It made me really proud when all of a sudden she came to school and had this really beautiful eagle piece and her explanation of how the eagle travels through darkness and trials and tribulations. He moves into becoming this beautiful multi-coloured being in the end,” she said.
Loutitt says Auger acts as a positive role model for other Indigenous youth. Describing the younger generation as “carrying the torch” for revitalized ways of knowing and being.