By Danielle Vienneau
From the Kijicho-Manito Madaouskarini Algonquin Nation (Bancroft, Ontario), artist Sherry Crawford was given the name White Bear Standing over 20 years ago at a Shake Tent Ceremony. For the last 25 years, Crawford has spent a great deal of her time learning about her Algonquin culture through her own research, and by attending ceremony, Elder gatherings, conferences and workshops. She aims to live her life by the Seven Grandfather Teachings and believes in a holistic approach to life.
It is Crawford’s belief that art is a universal form of expression and communication, with the ability to connect all people. She also considers art a modality for healing unique to each person who views, creates or lavishes in both. Crawford has always enjoyed the creative process and the challenge of trying new mediums and techniques, most recently dabbling in the Woodland style.
Crawford is a peaceful advocate for Indigenous rights and aims to inspire positive change through her art, social work and other roles, including being an active advisory committee member of the Kijicho Manito Madaouskarini Algonquin Nation in Bancroft, Ontario. She holds a degree in Social Service through the First Nations Technical Institute (Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory) and through St. Lawrence College. Crawford is a former circle member at Niijkiwendidaa Anishnaabekwewag Services Circle, and in 2018 she was trained as an Archaeology Liason for the Algonquins of Ontario.
At her core, Crawford is an artist and a teacher who looks for opportunities to educate others through her craft and as a workshop facilitator. She has a strong work ethic, hustling and travelling to various festivals throughout the year to meet others and showcase her work.
In addition to her art shows, Crawford is often asked to speak at events where she also incorporates an impactful Circle of Stones presentation that “visually demonstrates what colonization and residential schools did to our communities,” she says. “When you see it, you feel it, and then you get it. There’s just something about seeing a visual demonstration that really sinks in for people.”
Her art often invokes deep conversations with the people she meets, and perhaps it is also due to her social work background, but people are drawn to Crawford, feeling a sense of ease when they meet her and often opening up about their own lives. “Art has a way of opening a dialogue with others, having meaningful conversations with people who have many questions and/or who are eager to share intimate moments of their lives,” says Crawford. “I am honoured to hold this space for them.”
Crawford’s ceremonial name White Bear Standing truly connects her to her inner spirit, which presents itself in many of her pieces. Drawing from her culture and creating from her heart, her teachings often appear in her vividly brilliant and diverse pieces of work. Crawford is close to retirement but hopes her business White Bear Standing Creative—an online store where art enthusiasts can view and shop her prints—will continue to grow. In the near future, she aspires to open her own art gallery and cultural centre, with a vision of having a consistent space for other Indigenous artists and artisans to showcase their work—something Crawford hopes others will see value in investing in.
Danielle Vienneau, Editor-in-Chief with SAY Magazine, believes in the power of sharing positive stories to inspire greatness in others. To submit your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.