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Indigenous Artist Series

The National Lacrosse League has long been a leader in championing the awareness of Indigenous Peoples and their crucial role in the continued growth and development of their native sport of lacrosse. In that continued spirit and in conjunction with June’s Indigenous History Month in Canada, the league launched a pop art initiative featuring three standout Indigenous artists.

Tewanee Joseph, a member of the Squamish First Nation and CEO of Tewanee Consulting Group, hosted interviews with each of the three artists and coordinated communications efforts surrounding the program.  Read more to see what they discussed.

Tracey Anthony

Tracey resides on Six Nations. His father was Six Nations/Delaware, his Mother from the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

He is the Owner/Sole Proprietor of Vision Artworks which produces custom apparel screen printing, vinyl decals and signage, promotional items, graphic design, limited edition prints, and original mixed media artworks.

  • Describe your piece, what inspired you and what messages are within it?

    The head and body design in the piece come from other works I completed over the years. I have always been aware of Norval Morrisseau, and while at school at the Ontario College of Art and Design I studied up on him further. The X-Ray technique of the Woodland School Artists has always been of interest and I have tried to take their designs and ideas a bit further and make my own style. When I was commissioned to do the piece for the NLL I decided to use the X-Ray style with the lacrosse designs and ideas I had in place. I wanted the design to convey the fierceness of the traditional game and show the respect we have for the true intentions of the Creator’s Game … The Medicine Game. The Wampum Men on the top of the design represent the generations that have come before to bring the game forward, to show the respect we have for the older generations that kept the traditions alive.

  • Why did you become an artist?

    Growing up there was only three things I ever wanted to be or do; be a truck driver like my father, be a hockey player (since I was first on skates at 3), or be an artist. Though truck drivers are very important (as evidenced through COVID) my dad was eventually successful in showing me how hard the life of a truck driver was, especially a long haul driver like my father. Long stretches away from his family, sleep deprivation, loneliness, and the toll on his body showed me that life wasn’t for me and my father’s words to pursue another life stayed with me as I grew. We lost him to an accident while driving a truck at 35, leaving behind myself at 14 and my brother at 9, closed the door on any idea of being a truck driver.

    Hockey was always a passion since I first put skates on. I believe I could have gone far if I had made the choice but I ultimately decided that dedicating my life to the sport wasn’t for me.

    I made the decision in high school to pursue art and was accepted at a half dozen universities and colleges before deciding upon OCAD. In the end I believe I made the right choice and the experiences at OCAD have helped shape my artwork ever since.

  • Why is art important in the Indigenous communities?

    Art is important to Indigenous people as it helps to keep traditions alive and strengthen us at a personal and communal level. It is a positive outlet for creativity and character that enriches the lives of those close. It helps showcase the talents that are prevalent in Indigenous peoples and bolsters the sports, music, and other areas of our lives.

  • How do art and lacrosse relate to each other

    Art and lacrosse are both good medicine. They are healing for the individual and the community. People are brought together in creativity and sportsmanship. Confidence, self worth, and identity are strengthened and a sense of pride is grown.

  • Where can I find more of your work?

Yul Baker

Yul Baker was born in North Vancouver, BC and is of mixed native descent.  Yul carries two traditional names, one from the Kwakwaka’wakw (“Walla-bossa-ma”) and one from the Nuu-chah-nulth (“Ge-mock-soth”). In February of 2008, Yul graduated from the Northwest Coast Jewellery Arts Program at the Native Education College in Vancouver, which was led by Kwakwaka’wakw/Haida artist, Dan Wallace.

He is an avid athlete and won a World Championship in lacrosse with the Rochester Knighthawks in 1997. Yul has been working as an artist since 2003 and has trained with established artists Klathe-Bhi and Ray Natrall. Yul primarily carves masks, in both red and yellow cedar.

Jordan Thompson

Jordan Tehaweiakaron Thompson lives in Akwesasne, NY. He is of the Mohawk Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

He is an Education Specialist at the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.

  • Describe your piece, what inspired you and what messages are within it?

    Name – Presented: Passing on the Game

    The day a baby is born a small wooden stick is placed in the crib with them. It’s more than just the game being passed onto the next generation, it’s also showing the culture behind the game is being passed on.

  • Why did you become an artist?

    Growing up I have always done art. It was a natural and loving thing I did as a kid. If I wasn’t playing sports, I was doing my artwork. It was a passion within me and a way of expressing myself.

  • Why is art important in the Indigenous communities?

    Images represent our legends and stories that were passed down from generation to generation. Art allows us to tell our stories and share our culture. I am not just talking about artwork that is done on paper, but also through our strong skills with beadwork, sculpting, clothing, singing, dancing, even our food.

  • How do art and lacrosse relate to each other?

    Having a love for both art and lacrosse, they have brought me a great peace of mind. Art and lacrosse brings people together. Growing up my family was very supportive when I did both. They loved what I created and shared as well as watching me play the game. And I can for sure see that within my community and other Haudenosaunee communities…we have a rich culture filled with great artists along with a strong bond and love for the Creators Game (lacrosse).

  • Where can I find more of your work?

Special thanks to Pete Natrall and Jonas Worth, for coordinating such an inspirational group of individuals to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Heritage Month.

NLL