Her father was Kainai, a people from Northern Alberta and Montana, a healer and world reknowned for leading Sundances. Her mother, is Salish and Spokane, from the Pacific Northwest, who taught her all she has learned, in craft and life. Rachel is a warrior woman, contemporarilly. This interview is a morsel of Rachel’s complexity…
You’re a warrior in the strictest sense: you are a mother, artisan, and student, and defending yourself (Pro Se) against Canadian charges of trafficking eagle feathers. Quite an inspirational fighter. Do you notice difference between mainstream female, non~native Canadians and yourself?
I think all women achieve and struggle in society; we share having to fight to be heard. I believe women~in every aspect and level of life~are becoming more aware of supporting one another achieve and finding inner~strength, to celebrate it. All women work hard, carrying inner/exterior challenges~as do men I imagine. As a mother, no matter what I go through, I still have responsibilities to cook for my children, clean house, etc., as a student I must attend class and learn in order to achieve things I want in life. Many women around the world do the same.
Cultural differences, I see can be unique challenges, but they can be understood when one takes time to communicate about them.
What does Apunii mean, as you design under the name, Apunii Designs; and how did you acquire the arts/crafts knowledge?
Apunii means butterfly. I was asked by a holy man to be his butterfly (symbolic) in a ceremony, and I just have always felt a connection to them.
Mom taught me to bead, dance, and tan hides. I sew, design coats, and
clothing under Apunii Designs. Here are a few beadwork samples including regalia and apparel:
Beautiful craft. The coats are awesome. What do you see, besides craft, are ways to advance one’s heritage and cultural knowledge?
I think engaging children, taking them out to share why we gather medicine and using our language~which I am slowly learning. We have to turn off games and TV to do so, and break any shyness of approaching elders, myself included.
Tell us how you find sources of balance and power in your busy life.
Hmmm, well, I go to the woods or to the river when I need to pray or center myself. I talk to elders and ask for their prayer. I go to family for prayer. While I have to account for a lot of things, I do gather medicine in the summer, and I sense the Earth and spirits are happy when someone is gathering. Im a singer as well and that, too brings me peace.
I’ve learned to forgive, love all of me, and to live healthy. Learning to understand everything happens for a reason.
What is the significance of Bald Eagle Iconography in your culture, as it seems to transcend the indigenous Americas?
I can’t speak to meaning for all people, but we pray to them, so to me, Eagle has helped me and my father many times with blessings. Eagle takes a single mate throughout life and cares ferociously for its family. We can learn many things from Eagle if we ask. To me Eagle represents love and hope as well.
Nice. Now it’s widely publicized you’ve been charged with trafficking Eagle feathers; it seems current Canadian law doesn’t accomodate many cultural norms and traditions as relates to handling endangered (as well as dead) birds of prey. Were you to add a cultural caveat to current law, beyond a waiting list for feathers, what would that be?
Hmm. unsure I can answer that, but the legal environment needs to have cultural empathy on indigenous views and spiritual things in enforcement and enactment.
Well stated, Rachel. Tell us about your studies and how you want to use your education?
I study broadcasting, it’s always been a dream of mine~to be on TV~to inspire others to follow their dreams, and bring people back to the light of who they are. The best way to reach people, to help them learn to be robe proud of where they come from, en masse, is by media.
Contact our friend at:
Apunii Designs: firstname.lastname@example.org