A Manitoba woman has spent a lifetime telling legend stories through beadwork and is now using her experience to teach the next generation about Indigenous culture.
“The beadwork preserves the culture and it’s also something enjoyable. I want all cultures to see the beauty of First Nations culture,” says Kathleen Robinson Fingarsen, author of The Legends of Weesakayjak.
Originally from Norway House, Robinson Fingarsen has lived and travelled all across Manitoba telling legends to schools and libraries and anywhere else that would like to hear them.
She’s also beaded artwork since she was a little girl, so she combined the two and created a series of picture books for children.
“I’m just saving legends that are going to be forgotten. If I look up my legends on the internet, they’re not there. If I don’t write these down, they’re gone,” Robinson Fingarsen said in a Zoom interview with APTN News.
“And these are things that were told to me so they’re in here, I have to get them out on paper because I don’t have the age to run around to school telling legends anymore.”
Going around to schools and friendships centres began wearing on her however, and so she started thinking of ways to share them.
Kathleen started beading for the books while in hospital receiving cancer treatments. She would bead in between her breast cancer treatments and made a total of 64 murals for four different books with legends for each season.
She is now cancer-free and says the book full of legends is her way of honouring those that first shared them with her.
“When I tell these legends it feels like I’m telling the words of generations seven generations ago, generations past. It’s like respecting them and honouring them,” she said.
Delvina Kejick is a former educator in the Brandon school system. She helped develop a cultural education program and brought Kathleen in to tell legends to the students.
She saw first hand just how important these stories were to the students and believes every school needs a copy of the soon to be book.
“I think the big thing is really about, it’s understanding the story, understanding who they are that they would be proud of who they are. They would be proud and that they would have a deeper understanding as to the importance of the teachings, of the stories and of their story and how they are all connected to it,” Kejick stated.
Before she made mass copies of the book, Robinson Fingarsen decided to do a test run of 100 books to garner interest.
Using her own money, she paid to have the books made and they quickly sold out to schools and libraries in Brandon and Winnipeg.
Now, with interest from many other schools and libraries, Robinson Fingarsen is raising $5,000 to be able to publish 500 books for her spring collection The Legends of Weesakajak.
Once the money is raised she will be using a self publishing company to make the books which she hopes will be distributed to schools and friendships centres throughout Manitoba and eventually across Canada.