"I Carry Her With Me Every Day"- Local Art Gallery Owner Reflects On Teachings From His Grandmother
Authored by: Grant Berg
Date: February 17, 2020
Grant Berg is a former broadcaster of 29 years. He has worked in radio as an announcer, in sales and marketing, and as a general manager. A former member of Alberta’s Premier’s Council on Culture, he currently works as an artist and art gallery owner. He is a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, and last year he was a political candidate for the Provincial Election. His above sculpture is named, "Mother of the Forest". Berg says, "This piece, like all of my trees starts with the form and the the branches are carved in. This one I knew I had to stop while it was still more figurative. The female form in the tree form was too perfect to tamper with, she being both my Grandma and Mother Nature." I grew up very close to my Cree Grandmother from the time I was born. She was born Eliza Powder. I was the oldest son of her baby, 8 of 8, and it was my job to take care of Grandma’s yard and house. We often did art and craft projects together and she would tell me story after story. Everything she did was an art form and in her retirement would create crafts to sell at the markets to bring in some extra income. Looking back I wish I could recall so much more than I can. The biggest thing that stuck with me growing up was that when Grandma told me stories. They were not from a perspective of being Cree or Indigenous. They were of her being a little girl or her wedding. She married a Scottish trapper, Alexander Stratton. I understand Grandpa had trapping licence #2 in Alberta. When Grandma told stories she had no labels, no race; rather, family and friends and people. That still sticks with me. People, not labels. Grandma raised 8 outstanding and respected children in a cultural storm that claimed some of her own siblings at a time of upheaval and change in her world. She sheltered her children and provided them the guidance each would need to be good people and make the world a better place. I carry her with me everyday. I honour her everyday and strive to live up to the potential she saw in me. In many ways I look back at her and I, and in hindsight, it was a Cree version of Karate Kid. She taught me so much without me being aware that these were lessons. This past year I stepped up and ran to be an MLA in the provincial election. Through my life I had voted for Alberta’s PC party; however, I could not support the current leader of the UCP. In fact, I felt I had to stand up against a very different view of Alberta that I had and felt I need to protect. So I chose the Alberta Party. Obviously, we know how the results shook out, despite running what we felt was an amazing campaign. The Alberta Party ran the biggest slate of Indigenous candidates of any party and I was very proud to be one of those candidates. We took a balanced approach of being both fiscally and socially responsible. Spend money wisely, work hard for what you earn but take care of people that are not as fortunate as you are. Represent all Albertans, not just those that vote left or right. That philosophy is how I was raised. On both sides of my family, my Grandparents had their own business, and my parents also each started their own business- so we believe in free enterprise, but showing compassion for those that struggle. During the election campaign I was very fortunate, I never once felt any negativity based on race. Sadly, that was not the same experience for all of the other Alberta Party Indigenous candidates. The experience of being a candidate was very positive and I do not regret it all. It was challenging and mentally and physically tough. I used the love from my Grandma to propel me. She saw something in me, and when I question myself I reflect back on what she saw and it’s my job to live up to that and not disappoint her. Even though she passed away in 1997 her love is still felt. I will also admit, I am not fully involved in Indigenous culture. Circling back, we weren’t raised or taught that way. We carry a pride in who we are and our ancestors, aware of our strengths and gifts, but without a label. I do actively work to learn more and fill in gaps in the story of where I can from.
I am an artist and love to tell stories in writing and also in poetry/song lyrics. It’s not easy in today’s society to say you are an artist, yet every great culture in history celebrated its artists. For those familiar with my sculpture, typically it is a stone sculpture based on landscape.
A tree on a rock. The tree will often have a female form, representing my Grandma in the form of Mother Nature. The bases occasionally will take an abstract animal form such as a bear, wolf or raven. It took years for me to recall, but as a young guy, my Grandma and I would take a piece of driftwood and glue a plastic tree and an animal and create a mini landscape. In many ways that's similar to my sculptures today. I appreciate all of my ancestors each day for the gifts they left me.
Pictured Above: Titled "Bear Hill Spruce", this sculpture has a tree growing from a rock formation in the shape of a bear.
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