July 17th, 2024

Local Indigenous bead worker gives talk at Galt Museum

By Justin Seward - Lethbridge Herald on April 27, 2022.

Herald photo by Justin Seward Kalli Eagle Speaker gives a presentation Sunday afternoon at the Galt Museum about the Breathe 2.0 Exhibit and how she acquired traditional bead work knowledge.

Kalli Eagle Speaker has been doing bead work for 12 years and spoke about how she acquired knowledge during a talk at the Galt Museum on Sunday afternoon.
The talk’s primary focus was on how Eagle Speaker learned how to bead and sew the designs and the colours, as well as how she got involved with the Kainaiwa Bead Work exhibit and the Breathe 2.0 Exhibit and how those led to a job position at the Galt.
The Kainaiwa Bead Exhibit features photographs from the original Kainai bead work from the Glenbow Museum archives and contemporary stories from the Kainai bead workers.
Breathe 2.0 is a collection of traditionally crafted masks that demonstrate resiliency through the 21st century pandemic.
“I was primarily taught by my mother and my sister and I learned from watching them,” said Eagle Speaker.
“And from there we just kind of learned together, grew together. And we were able to continue to learn a lot about bead work – the designs and it’s a lifelong process. You don’t just kind of learn and then stop and think that you’re good. You just keep improving, getting better, learning more.”
When Eagle Speaker began an independent study with Carol Williams at the University of Lethbridge, it was only supposed to be where she was going to put her input in on Blackfoot research on the bead workers.
“And then she asked me to stay on as an employee, more so than a student. So she hired me as the research assistant with the kind of Woman’s Project where this is derived from. And then from there I was introduced to Aimie Benoit (museum curator) and Rebecca Wilde (museum educator), and so once that job posting came out I was interested, they were interested in me because we had already crossed paths before and that’s how I kind of ended up here.”
A majority of the bead exhibits were contributed by Williams and Hali Shield Head and Eagle Speaker was tasked with building the interview panels.
Eagle Speaker said it’s a skill very hard to come by.
“And even though it’s very common, I think it has a lot to do with those willing to teach you, the time that you’re willing to put in to learning because ultimately at the end of the day, no one’s going to benefit from the time and patience that’s put into it other than you.”
She beads for herself and her family and doesn’t sell things just due to how much time and effort goes into them.
“I’m currently working on a woman’s jingle set for myself and even that’s taking a lot of time, that I don’t feel like it would be fair for me to take on orders and have people wait for me,” she said.
The talks allowed her to reflect on the experience with her family.

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