Pelletier Medel | Interview - Issue #3
- Pelletier Medel -
27 - Cree Métis & Mexican
Which culture or sub-culture did you grow up in? More Traditional Indigenous, Traditional Mexican, Chicano/Lowrider, Reservation, or More American-esque? Or a different culture/sub-culture?
For the first eight years of my life, I grew up in Escondido with my mixed Mexican family, but after my parents separated, we moved to Canada to live with my grandparents in the city of Calgary in a very white dominated community. Every summer I would go to Saskatchewan to stay with my great Granny Agnes Pelletier whom I get my name from. She taught me all the traditions and skills like quilting and baking of our cree Métis heritage. My aunty shala also moved to Calgary and taught me how to Jig and finger weave Métis sashes. She also encouraged me to continue diving into my heritage that I craved to know more but struggled to find the supports. I had the privilege of working in a non profit organizations partnered along side the 3 reservation surrounding the city where I found connections and elders to further my discovery of my people. As of this summer I am now back in California, plunged back into my Mexican culture and family and loving that I get to celebrate where I come from.
What are your favorite parts of that culture and community?
My heart is storytelling. It’s what connects people, encourages, vulnerability, and breaks down barriers. Both my cultures have the tradition of oral teachings, and passing down knowledge and wisdom. I’ve seen the power of stories within my community and culture being able to share our stories of struggle, but also triumphs. while colonization has fought to assimilate, and silence our beauty, languages and the colourful people we are, our resiliency is strong. Bright and bold like the Color’s of our regalia or traditional clothing. Of course my cultures have amazing food but it’s also the food that brings family and communities together. I loved growing up and helping in the kitchen, watching my Abuela make tamales and my Kokum’s make Bannock.
How did growing up in that culture effect your current style, and point of view of life?
For a while, I was lost. the transition of moving away from one culture to another, but having to suppress that culture living in a white community and not feeling accepted, and then wanting to discover my culture, but not having the means or resources with the support left me feeling isolated. Which led me to want to hide my style was very much black or dark clothing, or whatever would make me fit in and not stand out. But while on this path of discovery of my beautiful cultures, I’ve learned to embrace colour to be loud and proud of where I come from. I wear my ribbon skirts as a sign of resiliency and strength of indigenous women. Bright colours emphasize my Latino in need of traits. No longer am I hiding. I wear dresses and skirts highlighting my femininity. Our styles and Color’s tell stories. I want my outside to reflect the free and proud woman I am! This is me!
As an adult now, have you learned about other Indigenous or Mexican sub-cultures?
Working in the different reserves around my city was quite the honour. Hearing stories from knowledge keepers, and elders of their tribes and being able to see connection to my cultures. Attending powwows and learning to cook traditional feasts, and traditional plants and medicines in the area. now being in California learning Spanish and more Mexican cuisines. I get the mixture of both Chicano and the traditional but can’t say I favour one or the other. However I learn more slang and swears than actual Spanish from the Chicano side lol.
What are your favorite parts of that culture and community?
I love the loud laughter and celebration of this side. Everyone I’m introduced to feels like family.
How has it effected your style and point of view of life now?
I’m definitely leaning more into the traditional beadwork that has similarities to my indigenous jewelry but is also very different. I’ve also purchased clothing that’s more form fitting as this side definitely embraces the curves in an empowering way.
As an indigenous woman, do you mind sharing what tribe(s) you are part of?
Did you grow up on the reservation or outside of it?
In the city.
How did growing up on or off the reservation impact your relationship with your indigenous roots/culture?
I felt the loss of not being brought up in the cultures and traditions. My summers with great granny were the little exposures I had but would be nicely tucked away when back in the city. A lot of my family is white passing, which also makes me feel feel isolated. When that hunger, and desire to know more about where I come from Came about I had very limited access to my culture. It’s a hard fight to know where I come from and to ask knowledge, keepers, and elders for support, but the journey I am on is beautiful. I’ve met many other young people who want to know more or have felt isolated from culture along the way. so that’s why I advocate for more spaces to celebrate our traditions and stories.
Please tell us about the work that you do within your culture(s)'s community. Or the work that you are doing to continue educating yourself or others about your culture(s).
I am a storytelling and learning facilitator. Storytelling can be fact or fiction, it can be to share wisdom or warnings or to pass down history. Storytelling can look like singing, acting, writing, rapping, art, beading, all the different forms. I am very much an oral Storyteller. I have and I continue to create spaces, especially for indigenous youth, to share their wisdom stories, and their culture through the many ways that stories are told. I love that Storytelling can connect people, and help us have empathy towards others. My way of Storytelling is to let people know that they are not alone. I also consider myself a Story Catcher. By Story Catching, I don't mean that I'm out here trying to steal stories or take them! Story Catchers are able to catch stories that might go unheard, unseen or unvalued. I want to be a place for people to share, a person that listens and empowers others to tell their stories. We all hold these different wisdoms and knowledges and lessons, and while it is OK to keep them to ourselves, there is this beautiful thing where we can share them and others can learn from them too. We can connect and we can leave people with our stories.
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Model and Interviewee - Pelletier Medel | @pelletiermedel
Editor in Chief - Alvinita Gonzales Production Assistant - Berlinda Gomez Photography - Alvinita Gonzales