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Using traditional crafts to fight the effects of colonization

The owner of a new local bead store says participating in traditional crafts can help people suffering from inter-generational trauma caused by the residential school system
20170531 Eva Dabutch Trailblazing Beads KA
Eva Dabutch poses with an example of the crafts available at the Trailblazing Beads store on Gore Street. Kenneth Armstorng/SooToday

What may seem to some a simple storefront selling beads is seen by its owner as an opportunity to seed social change and work toward healing wounds she says were created by colonization of First Nations people.

Eva Dabutch opened the Trailblazing Beads business about a year ago, after finding it difficult to locally source the raw materials used to create traditional First Nations crafts.

“A lot of the beading and teaching children to bead was lost. That’s part of the effects of colonization,” said Dabutch.

She said her own parents were forced to attend residential schools as children and the lasting effects of that generational trauma continues to be felt throughout her family, said Dabutch.

Participating in traditional activities, such as beading, can be effective helping people deal with the effects of colonization and the residential school system, said Dabutch, and can offer an alternative to substance abuse and reduce the risk of suicide.

“Encouraging my nephews and my children to go beyond that — to overcome that inter-generational trauma — both of my parents went to residential school. When people think, to get over it — that’s really hard,” said Dabutch.

The business began as a part-time venture after receiving a small grant from her community, but the first-generation university graduate recently expanded and opened a storefront on Gore Street, selling beads and beading supplies, as well as selling finished items made by local artisans.

“I love the community on Gore Street and all of the small businesses really help each other out and try to promote each other,” said Dabutch.

Allowing other to sell their finished goods on consignment and encouraging people to participate is important, said Dabutch.

“I want to remove the barriers for people who want to participate in their culture. I do offer free beading classes on Tuesday afternoons — we sort of have a drop-in beading — for anybody  who doesn't’t know how to bead and wants to learn,” said Dabutch.

She added, “I want to encourage people to participate in their culture.”

When she was a child, Dabutch recalls a business her mother had with four other people called Trailblazing Women.

“They would do bead work for everyone around northern Ontario,” she recalls.

Inspired by her mother, Dabutch began beading herself at about age seven.

“My mom used to travel to local pow wows. That’s really where my passion was, I just love being able to take my family and the encouragement I would get,” she said.

She added, “people don’t understand the significance of that — especially for indigenous people — that healing from trauma is really rooted in that connection to the land and to the culture.”

One of the artists consigning through Trailblazing Beads is Dabutch’s own 12-year-old daughter.

“She is earning her own income, which for a 12-year-old is huge and it keeps her busy. She is learning the business from me, so I call her my co-owner,” said Dabutch.

She added, “(my daughter) is going to grow up knowing the importance of having a business with a social mission.”

Dabutch believes she is blazing a trail for those interested in participating in the traditional craft.

“For me, and for my family, I feel like I am creating that path to culture and encouragement of culture,” she said.