As Madison Francoeur spent hour after hour selecting individual seed beads and stringing them together in different patterns, she also learned about embodied knowledge and explored her own Métis heritage.

Throughout a semester in AGAD 230, an Arts and Cultural Management independent study course with Dr. Heather Fitzsimmons-Frey, the second-year student connected with Métis women for her independent study, “Stitching with Stories.” 

“I was so fortunate to learn to bead from strong Indigenous women who are proud of their heritage and graciously shared their knowledge and skills,” says Francoeur, who presented her work as a creative installation at Student Research Day in April. “Through their teachings, I learned how to use beadwork as both an artistic outlet and a way to feel more connected to my culture.”

Francoeur’s beading journey included a workshop held by MacEwan’s kihêw waciston Indigenous Centre, online workshops, many YouTube videos and conversations with family members. As she strung beads together, she asked questions about colour selection, placement and applications. 

“There are many things about beading that you wouldn’t know unless someone told you,” she says. “Each piece is connected to my loved ones through design or function, allowing me to reflect on my family’s heritage.”

A pair of moccasin vamps, for example, is based on a design created by Francoeur’s great-grandmother. As she spoke with relatives and listened to old family stories from a new perspective, Francouer was building a project she was proud of. 

“I’ve done several major projects during my time in university, but this one is next-level – it’s special to me.”

Francouer says she took much away with her from the dozens of hours invested in her projects (her final piece of beadwork alone took more than 35 hours to complete) – new perspectives on how knowledge is generated and shared, the importance of flexibility (her original plans for the project shifted and changed several times throughout the term) and reinforcement that she is heading down the right path. 

After completing her final practicum in the Arts and Cultural Management program over the summer, Francouer will return to MacEwan this fall to continue her studies in the university’s new Bachelor of Fine Arts program.

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