“I think Terre’s program is vital to our community and the youth within it. It gives us a place to be ourselves and gives us a sense of purpose and belonging.” – Dewe’igan Barefoot
She sat cross-legged on the floor, holding her coffee in one hand and jotting down notes with the other. Like a wee child, full of anticipation for what was to come, she settled in to tell a story.
The aroma of moose meat spread through the rooms, fresh-cut shallots adding to the irresistible smell of the hot soup she was preparing for the youth group who were coming later that evening.
Her startling green eyes were already shiny with emotion when Terre Chartrand started to talk about her program with local Indigenous young people.
What began as a place-making project for youth to learn some art and make a geo-tour map, to restore the deletion of Indigenous history in Waterloo Region, has turned into so much more.
Endaayaang loosely translates into “our home,” which is the name of the youth program that Chartrand runs.
Every Thursday, about 10 young folk show up for another lesson. Some days they all come, some days only a couple are present, but that doesn’t matter to Chartrand.
She believes that people are meant to be wherever they are at any given moment in this life, so if they are with her, then that is where they are supposed to be. Her gentle voice supports her belief in this philosophy.
These youth come from very diverse backgrounds, and most have experienced homelessness and a lack of cultural upbringing. Chartrand wants to change that.
“They all currently live in precarious housing and have food insecurities,” she said, “so when they come here, it’s like a home space to drop in. A place where there is always food, and it’s always warm, and the door is open one day a week always, for them.
“Endaayaang and the community we’ve built with Terre has become Our Home. It’s where we feel safe and welcomed.”
– Dewe’igan Barefoot
Dewe’igan Barefoot, a 19-year-old, two-spirit Anishnaabeg Metis from Spry Lake, is one of the youths that has been attending this program.
“Working with Terre has been an amazing experience from the start. She has a heart of gold and is always going out of her way to help us,” he said. “She’s been an amazing mentor to me, both within my art and within my culture.”
Chartrand began to realize that these young people were enjoying making the Lino printing blocks, an ancient form of printing that involves carving into a medium like linoleum or wood. These blocks are then used to print onto a material, creating a bold, sharp image.
She said they got into it and wanted to encourage this, like seeing a spark and gently fanning it into a flame. “The act of carving something with a sharp tool, the trust and using the material to dig into,” seemed to be a hit with these young people.
The original project was to create stamps to hide at various locations on their geo maps. People taking the tour would use these blocks to imprint in their guidebook, with the goal being to collect all the stamps and see the historical places.
What happened after this was the beautiful side effect that makes her so proud. She suggested that they approach some local craft markets with their work.
She guided them and taught them how to budget, how to seek out and secure a venue to sell their work. She trained them how to invest in themselves, by re-investing 20 per cent of their earnings back into their business, and how to price their work so they get a fair price.
Their first market was a huge success. The youth walked away with a sense of accomplishment, pride and a few bucks in their pockets.
“I have started selling my artwork at venues with some of the other youth, and that has also been a wonderful experience,” Barefoot said. “It feels amazing to have our hard work and talents appreciated the way it has been.”
Local artist and colleague Heather Majaury said, “Over the last few years, I have had the privilege to share space with her and experience the Terre Chartrand magic. Her most recent and ongoing project, Endaayaang, is like no other.”
“It combines various artistic lessons in a curriculum she designed, that focuses on Indigenous ways of knowing, learning and connecting to experience and the land.”
– Heather Majaury
Chartrand said, “Our ultimate goal is to showcase that Waterloo Region is on Native land. To have everyone recognize the persistence and resilience of Indigenous people here.”
She added, “It doesn’t even matter where we all come from, it is the fact that we are still here and this has, and forever has been, and will always be our home as Indigenous people.
“Really what I want to see is these youth become leaders within the program where they teach, they create and build with other youth, where they are so connected that they become the storytellers of who they are and where they live.
“More than anything, I want the youth to know so deep that they belong, that they never question it. These youth are loved and a part of the land. They thoroughly belong, and their legacy is survival.”