apiingwe’iganan for Gina, in IV rounds

by waaseyaa'sin christine sy

round I

thought i found the perfect floral for my bestfriend on a pedestal: a raspberry flower, miskodemin waawaashkone, geget miskodemin waawaashkone. a true raspberry flower, indigenous to the land. i practiced it out in pink and green; loved it and reworked it again to perfected dotted flare,  here and there, a suggestion from bear. then the beads, the spirit seeds reminded me that bears love berries and since i love bears i was thinking that this first one, this first run, will be for life. so, geget miskodemin waawaashkoneg became the first flowers beaded for beautiful Anishinaabe ikawewizenhs life, young girl life

round II 

geget miskodemin waawaashkoneg were not Gina anyways: i see  her chuckling, laughing at them because they would make no sense to her, the colours would make no sense to her in this physical world so how could they make sense to her in the manidoo (spirit) world? i felt it through to closer, to what might make good sense because these vamps need to make sense, need to connect her to the world lovingly, spiritually, so she knows she mattered and matters. they need to be coherent between she and me and manidoo. finally, the idea: the vamps would be perfect if they reflected something of her land. the place she was conceived, was birthed on to, taken from.  the place she returned to with dreams, conceived & birthed her babies on to, was murdered on, and buried in. the land the land her land. my hand Google searched for the flora of her land:  Alberta, Northern Alberta, Edmonton, Saddle Lake First Nation.  Indigenous place names all unknown.

wild roses everywhere.


and the thing is, Gina, when i knew her, how i knew her—

she was not

a wild rose

and while she was named and claimed, regulated and problematic, as Indians are in Canada, she was not cherished, loved or honoured, not protected by any province just as Indian women are not in Canada, the way wild roses are

no, not a wild rose at all

round III


a Cree design! a Cree floral design! a Nehiyaw beading design! and i found what i was looking for on Pinterest. YES YES YES! beautiful, rich, meaningful, and          and         and


my friend was/was not Nehiyaw (if you know what i mean). she was a woman, a daughter, a  girl taken, a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, an indian. Cree floral designs are meaningful to me and maybe some audiences, but in her life,  how i knew her, they were not meaningful to her. none of us knew about cree or beading or floral designs or that meaningful was meaningful and that we had come from thousands year old meaningful meanings, and meaning-making. in our worlds, none of us knew, even at the time of her murder, about Nehiyaw.

that is the truth of the matter.                     if anything, maybe apiingwe’iganan (moccasin vamps) like this would make her feel inadequate, odd. and maybe this would also make her feel odd…

the word: Nehiyaw

the word: Cree

the word: beading

the words: moccasin vamps

the words: Nehiyaw beaded moccasin vamps

all this, maybe, is the truth of the matter.                  and more maybe-truth:                                                                     she had dreams of marriage, kids, a house, a family. she did not have dreams of re-naming reclaiming restoring revitalizing resurging. her truth is the truth of many of us at one time or another, or forever

round IV

i’m tired and need to nap. it’s 1:13 p.m. and giizis (warm life-giving sun) is flowing through my window, shining through the branches of the gargantuan tree outside, shining through a sprinkling of spring buds, through the window to me. life is good in the letting go and the dozing off:

Gina, it has to be right, this beading for you. it has to be something that is you, that my bones and heart tell me you would like, or at least be ok with or, at least not laugh at, shake your head at. it has to be something i can see you nodding at, something i can see has touched your heart, something you see yourself in and recognize. maybe it even makes you smile that smile after you’ve made somebody laugh.…     remember the time you cracked me up and then cracked me up more by making me laugh really loud so you could shove a handful of grass in my big old mouth and then laughed so hard at how awesome you were in that moment cuz your plan worked and you got me so good and then smiled at my laughing at your trickery and my pitiful self and everything there near the top of the big hill, the steep one running alongside the back of the camps by the lake? just you and me stopped there for a moment out of nowhere in the middle of that hill, the middle of our life and the hot hum of summer and cicada sounds, there between the two lakes our home, just you and me and Old Mill Road and the smells of lapping water with green and light flitting through poplar leaves and maple leaves, through massive pines and spruce?                        yes….that smile

cat naps of seven or eighteen minutes are very all right because they perk you up, satisfy a want mid-day, bring you your friend, her apiingwe’iganan, in a flash of dream

a dream, pawaanjige,

even a flash of pawaanjige

has answers:

purple beaded background, a floral in five-petal turquoise heart-ish shapes with a bright orange middle all enveloped in beaded black frame that looks like lace, a three-sided box and one curvy line kind of frame 

                                                                tough and feminine,



e-YAA. yes.

this is Gina. this is the colour and shape and texture and complete essence of her. this is you and these vamps are for you. it’s true, i’ve changed dream-time reality ever so slightly here in awake-time reality: the edging is the colour of thunderbird, the beaded purple to purple velvet. all this dream(y) and lux is you for sure. and, there is more: i’ve wrapped you, my friend, in soft and strong smelling  brain-tanned hide

deer hide


hunted honourably and made with love, skill, hard work, and with asemaa (tobacco) by anishinaabenini and given to me by a kind, gentle, knowledgeable, and funny zhaaganoshinini in exchange for a poem. i wrapped you in hide for grounding and hope and memory of how it might one day again be for Indigenous women and girls: honoured and respected as creators and life-source. i’ve sent you off to be carried around the world to be rightfully and humbly admired and honoured, remembered, embraced, and carried by The People.


thank you


for making me laugh

and feel safe,

for being someone

to look up to

and look to,

thank you

for being the  girlfriend

in my growing up,

that i could

be awe’d by,

go now my amazing friend, walk with (y)our sisters over there, and we will walk with you (all) over here, in bare feet, just right close to you.

baa maa pii gaawaabiminigo

(until i see you again)


Chi-miigwech (thank-you) to Celine Vukson (Tlicho) and Biskakone Greg Johnson (Ojibway Anishinaabe) for the kind and generous sharing of knowledge about beading;

Chi-miigwech to Jennifer Adese (Métis) for teaching me the difference between kinanaskomitin and kinanaskomitinanaw;

Chi-miigwech to waawaashkeshi; and,

Chi-miigwech to Christi Belcourt (Métis)  the many helpers involved for bringing the vision of Walking With Our Sisters to fruition.

*Nations have been identified above in the spirit of reclaiming Indigenous Nationhood and Peoplehood as well as in the spirit  of reclaiming Indigenous Nation-to-Nation relationships.

Anishinaabe Glossary on Beadwork

(from Chippewa Customs by Frances Densmore, reprint 1979, Minnesota Historical Society Press, p. 22)

[note: orthographic symbols not included.]

manido’mines (manido, spirit; min, seed or berry; es, diminutive): bead.

manido’minesikan: beadwork.

muzina’bido’igun (from muzinube, he or she pictures): woven beadwork.

kwackwac’kundjimines’ikan (kwackwacun, jumping): “jumping pattern”.

wawa’ckigwa’suwin (wag is part of stem of word applied to things bent, curved, or crooked): “zigzag pattern”.

ni’gigwa’sowugwa’sun (ngig, otter; sun implies sewing): otter-tail pattern.

wa’wie’gwasun (wawie, round): round pattern.

ajage’cigwa’sun: crawfish pattern.

anung’egwa’sun (anung, star): star pattern.

muzini’jiganun’ (from muzinube, he or she pictures): cut pattern.