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Tamara Cardinal

May 24, 2017

Tamara Cardinal is a Cree multi-media artist, community activist, oskâpêwis, and lifelong learner with mixed German descent. Born and raised in Treaty 6 territory of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, she currently lives in Treaty 7 within Moh-kíns-tsis (Calgary, Alberta). She is a graduate of the Alberta College of Art + Design and is the recipient of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Young Artists Award 2017, as well as the National BMO Art! Competition Award 2015. Her piece Akohp: A Blanket is included in for the time being: 2017 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art, which opens this week at the Art Gallery of Alberta and the Walter Phillips Gallery. Tamara currently works within the urban Indigenous community as a Child Support worker, offering creative programming to families seeking shelter from domestic violence.

1. Gardening, recycling, composting

Only recently has it become clear to me how much time I offer throughout my day to these seemingly small and mundane tasks. Many years ago a small group of sculpture students and I began the ACAD Community Garden, and since then I have continued to keep up my gardening practice. I remember the days when my mother kept a large plot behind my childhood home. It became custom to make "pea & carrot soup" for all my friends who came by (which for a five year old meant dirty carrots and shelled peas in cold water). When I was sixteen, the year before I left for Germany, I began composting in the backyard, despite my father's disbelief that I would finish the task. Now living in a top story apartment in the city, I do what I can to reduce my everyday waste and even pick trash from the street if I'm close to a garbage can.

2. Considering Indigeneity in a contemporary Western, N.A. context

This topic has been mulled over, written about, and performed for decades. Artists of all backgrounds have tried visualizing, contextualizing, and making sense of this strange reality we are living in with the constant blending of cultures. This is particularly the case when you leave your homeland and move into what feels like foreign territory (diaspora). As humans, we are all Indigenous to some place, somewhere, but where exactly and who claims us is the question. While navigating unfamiliar territory presents an excitedly large learning curve, there is a responsibility and amount of respect placed on getting to know the history of the land of everyone who gathers there. I'd recommend the writing of Paul Chaat Smith – more specifically Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong – for his raw honesty.

3. Reducing, minimizing, letting go

A part of growing up, changing, and moving on is reducing the number of endless boxes of mementos and knick-knacks that document memories for years to come. Having moved often throughout the past three years, I eventually learned to carry only what is necessary. This mindset has translated into my creative process. I acknowledge that the materials I use are only here for the time being. They are not meant to last more than a lifetime. There is a constant cycle of life and death that echoes the beginning and ending of all things.

4. Finding and offering resources

As a part of my chores/tasks/things-to-do, I put together a weekly news bulletin of Calgary and area community events, job postings, youth programs, educational opportunities, and health, human rights, and justice information called the Calgary Urban Indigenous Peoples' Bulletin. Anyone can sign up by sending a message through our Facebook page. If you have something to post, email: These resources overlap into my work at the shelter as they help singles and families gain more access to our surrounding communities.

5. Music

I've been reconnecting to my love of noise – props to my partner and his metal influences. Watching a live band perform has always been a favourite pastime of mine from my rockabilly stage to punk rock, jazz, blues, folk, and rap. I miss the days of dancing all night long. There are no guilty pleasures I can hide. Sometimes all you need is a lil’ Kendrick Lamar or Tanya Tagaq to set you right.



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