Anishinaabekwe artist Jenna Valiquette (Leading Eagle Woman) is the founder of Eagle Woman Prints, a company that creates contemporary prints based on traditional ways of knowing. With Valiquette as the designer, she melds her Indigenous culture with modern art influences, offering a range of prints, beadwork and custom gifts that incorporate her mixed heritage. 

Valiquette is very passionate about Indigenous resistance and resurgence and describes her business as her “heart project,” where her creations reflect her feelings and observations of the world around her. “To express my experience as a contemporary Indigenous woman in Canada, I’ve turned to creating digital art prints. It has served as an outlet for many emotions and opinions I hold about justice and reconciliation in this nation,” explains Valiquette. “My family is both Cree and Ojibwe, so I try to include both languages in my pieces to honour both sides of my relations.”

Her family is from Poplar River First Nation in Treaty 5, but Valiquette grew up in a small town north of Winnipeg, in a predominantly white “hockey town,” as she calls it. “I grew up disconnected from my culture,” she says. “I didn’t learn about anything in the classroom. We never talked about residential schools. And my family didn’t speak the language.” 

A once aspiring musician, Valiquette always dreamed of seeing the ocean, so when she graduated high school at 18 years old, she moved to Australia to pursue a degree in music. Her move across the pond proved more enlightening than she ever expected. It wasn’t until she was in Australia that she realized the Indigenous Australians, the Maori people, and the Torres Islanders were going through a lot of the same things that Indigenous Peoples in Canada were experiencing. “At 19 you think you know everything. The things I observed in Winnipeg were the same in Australia—a factor of colonization that’s affected Indigenous people everywhere,” explains Valiquette.

Being away from home brought a new perspective and forced her to dig deep to understand her biases and learned behaviours. “I realized the magnitude of the root problems and that they can be addressed. And that shift in mindset changed my life,” says Valiquette. 

Valiquette finished her schooling in Australia and returned home to Winnipeg just as the pandemic hit. As the world came to a halt, music took a back seat and she took the opportunity to learn about her First Nations heritage while at the same time continuing her studies online at the University of Winnipeg. Valiquette eventually completed her degree in Indigenous Studies. Through her studies, and with the guidance of one of her instructors, Valiquette was set on another life-changing path—one that would lead her to finding, and proudly accepting, her identity as an Indigenous woman.  

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