DSC Ann Mille

DS Creative Artist uses traditional art to educate about food sovereignty

Dreamstarter Creative Ann Miller-Larson Update May 2022

Running Strong for American Indian Youth® Dreamstarter Creative Ann Miller-Larson (Oneida and Ojibwe), 31, of Green Bay, Wisconsin, used their grant funding over the past several months to create large, beaded pieces (roughly 8×10 inches) that address the importance of traditional food and food sovereignty.

“The pieces depict foods that are deeply ingrained in both Ojibwe and Oneida cultural traditions,” they reported in a program update this month. “These pieces will be accompanied by a short, written narrative describing the food depicted, their cultural significance, and how Ojibwe and Oneida people are working to preserve traditional, sustainable food systems.”

Ann went on to explain that many of their family’s cultural and artistic traditions “were lost or kept from us.

“As a result, I have had to teach myself how to bead and how to create in this medium,” they said. “It has been a difficult but rewarding process.”

Throughout the grant period from October 2021 to May 2022, Ann says they have been able to share their knowledge with their father, as well as their many nieces and nephews, and members of their community.

“Not only have they been able to see the process of creating the pieces, but they have begun to learn the stories and importance behind them.”

Ann told us that they find a great deal of joy in creating original designs with beadwork.

“As an Ojibwe and Oneida person, beadwork has long been an important means of expressing creativity, but for myself personally, it was not a skill I was able to learn from my own family. That struggle and reclamation of lost knowledge is why beading is my favorite medium to work with.

“Art has always been a part of my life and a part of the way that my people (the Ojibwe and the Oneida) express themselves. We have always used art to express ideas, pass on stories, and reflect our connection to the world around us. More recently, art has allowed my community and myself to address important topics in an artistic way.”

Ann was able to use their grant funding to purchase the beads, needles, thread, backing, foundation, banding, quills, birch bark, and jewelry chains needed to create these large art pieces. They also purchased storage containers for the supplies, frames or display cases for the finished beadwork, and books written on the topic of food sovereignty that allowed them to write well-informed narratives to accompany each piece of beadwork.

“With this grant, I was able to purchase these supplies, further educate myself on this topic, and create pieces that can be displayed in my community as a means to educate others on the topic of food sovereignty.”

As a resident of Green Bay, they noted that their community “lacks diverse representation, particularly in the arts.

“Having the means to create art that not only showcases a traditional, Indigenous art style, but also communicates the importance of preserving traditional food ways will be an invaluable step toward greater representation in my community.”

In their Dreamstarter Creative application, Ann cited reasons why they felt they should be selected for a grant from Running Strong to pursue their dream telling us, “I care deeply for my people, our lands, and our culture(s).

“I want to share that with my community in a beautiful, meaningful way. This grant will allow me to continue reclaiming the cultural tradition of beading, and to share my passion for our traditional lands and food systems with my community.”

And thanks to the supporters of Running Strong they have done just that saying, “Reclamation of this lost knowledge has been a struggle, but the Dreamstarter Creative grant has allowed given me access to so many materials and tools that I never would have been able to afford on my own. It has also given me the opportunity to share that knowledge with others.

“Without your help, none of these pieces would have been possible. Chi-miigwech (Thank you in Ojibwa)”

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