Published by Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation. Original post found here

I recently put a lot of effort into preparing for my trip to Europe and thinking about the messages I would like to share. I spent time in the forest, reading my ancestors’ stories, talking with my people, keeping up with the news, staying active, eating well and overall just trying to acknowledge my whole self.

In my First Nation’s culture, we train our children to nurture their physical, mental, spiritual and emotional wellness. A part of our original culture was to ensure our bodies, minds, hearts and souls were strong. These days we spend so much time on our minds we often forget, or undervalue, the other three parts of our selves.

One thing I’ve done is practice singing. Part of the message I am sharing while in Europe is about the need for emotional wellness. One way to reach a soul is through song.

For my people, our songs help us open ourselves to spirit. When you use words with emotion, you can feel the ancestors. You can talk to Sua – which means bird but also asua, little bird, our endearment for Grandmother.

To empower my reconnection with song, emotion and spirit, I painted my drum. My mother, Jane Strack, taught me to paint. She passed when I was 26. She was a kind woman. She was an elementary school teacher and endlessly sought to understand others. She had such strong empathy. We used to paint together every New Years – to this day, I still paint at night. Over two nights of preparation, I stayed up until 4 a.m. and 2 a.m. working to finish my Wolf Drum.


I am a member of the Agunda (Wolf clan). While dancing – and in any garment – one can only wear their clan’s symbols. Our clan system originates from the coastal Tlingit people. They have six clans: Killer Whale, Wolf, Beaver, Raven, Crow and Frog.

My people originated when the groups from the Crow and Wolf clan left their coastal family and moved inland. They maintained trade ties, where most Dän (Tutchone people) could speak both Tlingit and Tutchone. Today, the Southern and Northern Tutchone people are either Wolf or Crow and we maintain strong connection with our coastal relatives.

I feel the drum represents an evolution of culture, where I apply techniques and design from my traditional and contemporary teachings. This is what my people are striving to do. We have adopted our contemporary lifestyles, we are dependent on our vehicles, heat and insulated homes. We have also kept our spiritual foundations, such as our potlatches and songs – which we rely on for our wellbeing and healing. We are in a position of choosing what can move us forward as our best selves and what is holding us back or continuing to cripple us.

My people are actively undertaking this exercise as we seek to overcome our past traumas.

Lately, I have contemplated how different societies would benefit by taking an honest look inwards to consider their strengths and vices. Often, it is our vices – consumerism, convenience and well, greed – that either directly or indirectly harm Earth. So, taking time to reflect on the strengths of society, the aspects that allow one to be their best, even through a simple task like painting, may in turn assist our shared return to harmony.