Colouring It Forward, Art Project by Diana Frost from Calgary, Alberta (Canada)

Greetings to all my relations,

I am an Algonquin Métis, engineer by day, and artist, musician and author by night.  In the first part of my career, I traveled extensively and both volunteered and worked as an engineer overseas on projects to improve water and sanitation systems for small cities and mountain villages. As someone who has always been interested in other cultures, I’ve been lucky enough to work on projects in Colombia, Peru, China, and Rwanda. I’m very proud of the work I did while with the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST). We developed a “train the trainers” model so that by the time I left, I was able to verify I had helped 500,000 people get better water by empowering local NGOs to do the work themselves. 

Colouring It Forward Series

During my time at CAWST, I became aware of the poor quality of water on some Canadian Indigenous reserves. I was unable to do anything about it because of the political situation and a lack of connections. From that knowledge and desire to help, plus the yearning to learn more about my roots, the idea for this project was born. And so, out of all of this, the Colouring It Forward project began to grow.

Along with my appreciation and love for the artists’ work, the colouring book series has given me a chance to learn more about Indigenous people, culture and wisdom. I also have the opportunity to ‘colour it forward’ with these books by giving a percentage of the proceeds from the books to the artists, elders and community projects to generate jobs, support small businesses and support better education programming.


My Colleagues

My elder colleague on the first book is Camille Pablo Russell. My artist colleagues on the first colouring book are Kalum Teke Dan and Ryan Jason Allen Willert. 

Camille Pablo Russell was born on the Blood Reserve in Southern Alberta. His Indian name is Shooting in the Air, and he goes by the name Pablo. He grew up being very close to his grandparents. It was through them he learned a lot about his roots and traditions. Over the past 20 years, he has lectured in Europe on Mental Health, Coaching, Traditional Herbs and Leadership Management. His workshops are based on the principle of “Follow the Buffalo”. For First Nations people, the buffalo represents the qualities of perseverance, facing the storms of life and walking into them. Pablo's book "The Path of the Buffalo - Medicine Wheel" is available for purchase in this store. He also works in Calgary, Alberta at the Elbow River Healing Lodge as a spiritual counsellor.

Kalum Teke Dan is a Blackfoot artist from Calgary who originates from the Blood Tribe in Southern Alberta. He was first inspired to create art by his grandparents, who were known internationally for their bead work and traditional regalia. Mostly self-taught and working in both oil and watercolour, Kalum has become known for his strong portraiture and his stunning wildlife depictions. His portraits are based on real life people--those who portray the strength and the pride of the People as a whole. He captures the spirit of the animals he paints on canvas. His work is in the personal collection of several Canadian Premiers, international leaders and many of Canada’s leading corporations. His work can be found in galleries across Canada and the United States. Kalum has also been commissioned to paint several murals of significant size by organizations in both Calgary and Edmonton.

A full-time artist and storyteller living in Red Deer, Alberta, Ryan Jason Allen Willert was born and raised in Southern Alberta. Although he was brought up in a non-native community, he has since reconnected with his Blackfoot roots (Siksika Nation).  Ryan learned the art of black ink drawing from his father Richard (Dicky) Stimson, another well-known Siksika Nation artist. Among the many exhibitions where he has presented his work are the City of Calgary and Calgary’s Glenbow Museum. Ryan has done readings of his stories in front of large audiences including the Calgary’s Aboriginal Awareness Week at Mount Royal College in 2008. Along with his artwork initiatives, he has spoken several times in front of youth and adult classes for life skills students through the Personal Support & Development Network and other special initiatives; including 2008’s Future Aboriginal Business Leaders Symposium in Pincher Creek. Ryan is sought out as an important role model in the community, especially for youth outreach and inspiration. He has since gone on to make murals in collaboration with many schools.

The second colouring book focuses on Dene art and wisdom from the Northwest Territories. That's why it's called the Northern Dene. There are also Dene people that live near Calgary (Tsuut'ina), in Alaska, BC and in the southern States. My artist collaborators on that book are Michael Fatt and Christiana Latham. The elder is the late George Blondin and we received permission from his son and daughters to republish his stories in the colouring book.

George Blondin was a Dene Elder born in 1923 in the Northwest Territories. A prolific writer, he was also a wilderness guide, a miner, a trapper, Vice-President of the Dene Nation, and in 1989 was elected Chariman of the Denendah Elder's Council. He was also the author of three books including When the World was New and Yamoria, the Lawmaker. For his storytelling efforts, Mr. Blondin received the Ross Charles award in 1990 for Native journalism and in 2003, was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada. He was very active in the community and attended political meetings dealing with issues from land protection to employment in the Northwest Territories. He is best known for collecting and sharing the stories of his people so that future generations of Dene would nt forget their stories. He believed deeply in spiritual matters and published three books conveying stories with spiritual themes. The latest, Trail of the Spirit: Mysteries of Dene Medicine Power Revealed, was published in the fall of 2006, and sits on publisher NeWest Press's bestseller list.

Michael Fatt is a Chipewyan Dene from Lutsel K'e, a fly-in community near Yellowknife, NWT on the upper east arm of the Great Slave Lake. Art has always been a part of Michael’s life. His childhood was spent in foster care and when his artistic skills were noticed at the school he attended in Winnipeg, he was encouraged to enroll at courses provided by the Winnipeg Art Gallery. His first works were done in oils and he exhibited a significant amount of talent at an early age. Michael’s journey was a difficult one and he eventually spent time in jail. There he developed an interest in his roots and changed his art to more of a Native Arts style. He eventually moved back to his original community and learned more about his history and culture, which is now reflected in his art. Michael’s art is sold through community markets in Calgary, Canmore and Banff. He was also commissioned to do a live painting event to auction a painting for Ground Zero Theatre in October, 2016.

Christiana Latham is a multidisciplinary artist of Northern Native and British descent. She obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Multimedia Arts and Design Technologies in 2015 and is currently taking printmaking as a minor at the Alberta College of Art and Design. Christiana has exhibited her work in various galleries and her films have been shown in film festivals worldwide. One of her achievements was the acceptance of her latest film into GAMA (Gallery of Alberta Media Arts) at the Epcor Centre in Calgary in 2016. Christiana's main artistic focus is on film, watercolour and print media. Her artistic endeavors work to challenge personal growth and self-discovery. Christiana's work has evolved over time but she remains constant in creating culturally explorative pieces that work to connect her past to her present.

The third book in the series is on the Cree Nation. I worked on this book with Cree elder John Sinclair as well as artists Delree Dumont and Sam Bighetty

John Sinclair's roots go back to Good Fish Lake First Nation and Ermineskin First Nation. Given the laws of the time, his grandparents both lost their status due to marrying non-Indigenous persons. His grandfather received scrip and was declared as Métis of the Wolf Lake settlement. John identifies as a non-status Cree person. He is a second generation survivor of the residential school system. He grew up in the bush and loved the lifestyle. At age 10, his grandparents, who raised him, moved to Edmonton. He was introduced to discrimination from other school kids and soon learned that violence kept him safe. Violence and substance abuse became a way of life and soon he was in conflict with the law. It was while he was incarcerated that John was introduced to his culture. For the past 25 years, he has been learning about ceremonial way of life. He has earned the rights to carry a pipe and conduct various ceremonies. John as worked for Correctional Services Canada since 2000, beginning in programs and since 2006 as an Elder.

Delree Dumont is an Indigenous woman whose family is from Onion Lake Cree Nation, Saskatchewan. Delree excelled in the arts from the time that she was a child and has painted throughout her life, even while working in the oil and gas industry for 32 years. Delree's style varies between realism and pointillism. Her pointillism paintings appear to be like beadwork on canvas. In 2014, she left the oil and gas industry to pursue her dream of opening a native art gallery. She opened Delree's Native Art Gallery on October 6, 2015 in honour of her mom's birthday and celebrates every year on this date. Unfortunately, due to personal reasons, Delree chose to close down the gallery in 2019.   

Sam Bighetty is a Woodland Cree from Pukatawagan First Nation, Manitoba although he now calls Calgary home. He started drawing when he was 14 years old and has been painting since he was 20. He comes from a family of artists and grew up watching other family members drawing and painting before trying it himself. Hi solder brother recognized Sam's talent and was instrumental in helping him learn to paint. He works in oil or acrylic depicting animals warriors and instruments filled with scenery, all in brilliant colours. Every painting contains symbolism to honour women, to recognize a life well lived or a life of hardships and spirituality. 

I was approached to publish the fourth book by Sagatay's Shannon Monk and Onagottay. It is a book on the Ojibway/Anishinaabe teachings and artwork by Ojibway elder Onagottay, whose name is also Morris Blanchard. In this book, the stories are also translated into Anishinaabe. Onagottay is from Lake of the Woods, Ontario and grew up learning the language and culture of his people. He has Ojibway, Blackfoot and Navajo ancestry, and is a member of the Eagle Clan and the Midewin Lodge. Onagottay looks out into the bush, away from the lights in the city. He is a medicine Man, Knowledge Keeper and carries many teachings and ceremonies including the Shake Tent and Sweat Lodge teachings. Members of the community often call upon him for guidance, prayers and traditional healing. Onagottay is a self-taught artist, who spent his early career painting and sketching with renowned artist Norval Morrisseau in Thunder Bay, who encouraged him to find his own unique style. His talents include drawing, painting and carving; he also makes birchbark canoes, cedar baskets, moccasins, mukluks and jewelry. His paintings are filled with teachings spiritually given in dreams to him by the Creator; in keeping with Indigenous protocol, Onagottay fasts to receive visions for his paintings and conducts a ceremony before beginning and completing each painting.

After the books, we have worked with dozens of artists from different nations across Canada including Inuk, Mohawk, Mi'gmaq, Nakoda, Algonquin, Nuun chah nulth and many more to produce calendars, journals and other products.

We have made donations from the sales of products to Indspire, Children are our Sacred Bundle conferences, the BRICK Learning Centre, Awo Taan Healing Society, Stardale Women's Group and more. 

Thank you for your support - Meegwetch!

Check "Colouring It Forward" Creations