Algonquin Outfitters

2021 Paddle Art Auction – Notice

Algonquin Outfitter’s 3rd, 2021 Charity Paddle Art Auction launched on September 13th. This contest is used to raise funds for local art organizations like the Algonquin Art Centre, Huntsville Art Society, Canadian Canoe Museum, Huntsville Festival of the Arts, Tom Thomson Gallery in Owen Sound, and the Town of Huntsville’s reserve fund for future public art acquisition. This year, we have upwards of 75 paddles submitted though we have come to realize that there are artworks that require further conversation based on our commitment to educating ourselves about Indigenous history and culture and working to establish relationships with local Indigenous communities.

Algonquin Outfitters (AO) is working to better understand and recognize Indigenous culture in Canada. In 2020, AO began working with Christine Luckasavitch of Waaseyaa Consulting to help build relationships with local Indigenous communities. Christine worked for AO at the Huntsville, Hidden Valley, and Bracebridge locations over a decade ago. She is Omàmìwininì Madaoueskarini Anishinaabekwe (an Algonquin woman) and of mixed settler heritage. Her work is centred on educating people about Algonquin history and culture.

Algonquin Outfitters began working with Waaseyaa Consulting to develop a long-term program to support Indigenous community-based artwork programs in Algonquin Park and Muskoka. Some of you may have met Christine at the 2020 Banff Mountain Film Festival. This program was set to launch in Spring 2020. As this entire program was set to be community-based, together we made the decision to completely postpone the entire program in order to prioritize community health.

Our Charity Paddle Art Auction brings out all kinds of personal creative approaches from various people. Because of public discourse, we have realized that we have an ethical responsibility to respect all cultures and the use of elements of their identities and cultures. Through our work with Waaseyaa Consulting, our own learning, as well as public discourse on social media, AO understands that we have an ethical responsibility to address possible cultural appropriation.

This is a huge learning experience for us and we didn’t anticipate public reaction to paddles created with indigenous symbolism.

Ultimately, we find ourselves in a position where we have decided that we cannot ethically profit from another’s cultural, spiritual symbols, particularly at a time when Canada needs to work toward genuine reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.  With this realization, we find ourselves uncomfortable, knowing that every artist has worked on their submission with extreme care. We genuinely appreciate the efforts that they have made to support AO’s Charity Paddle Auction. We know that these artists have dedicated their skills and days of hard work to produce such detailed paddles, each one is unique and we know that they would have raised significant funds for our charities if they were left in the auction.

When we realized there were challenges with including paddles that depicted elements of Indigenous culture, we spoke with Waaseyaa Consulting and decided to put the paddles on hold. Together we determined that the best course of action would be to return the paddles to the artists, but we wanted to honour their hours of hard work and still display the paddles with the other paddles and canoes.  So, on Sept 13th they were added to the display. Algonquin Outfitters will be donating $100 for each of these paddles to support the charity auction. These paddles are still listed in the auction but with an opening bid of $9,000,000 and a note indicating that they are not available.

Based on guidance from Waaseyaa Consulting, AO understands that while it’s ok to appreciate Indigenous culture and love the imagery many associates with it, we must not move from cultural appreciation to cultural appropriation. Based on conversations with each artist, we know that there was no ill intention with any of the paddles that contain culturally sensitive elements.

AO commits to educating ourselves about Indigenous history and culture and working to establish relationships with local Indigenous communities. Moving forward, we will work more closely with artists and the Algonquin community so we can all understand this better and will modify our rules for future events and programs to reflect our respect for all.

We also understand that we have an obligation to participate in public dialogue on this element of the 2021 Charity Art Paddle Auction. Please know that you are invited to submit questions or elements of dialogue. There will be zero toleration of any harmful language or intent.

AO staff have spent the last two weeks learning more about what cultural appropriation is and how we can learn from this experience. We encourage you to do your own research on what cultural appropriation looks like. Waaseyaa Consulting has provided a document of links to online articles about cultural appropriation from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous understandings, which you can find at https://waaseyaaconsulting.ca/blog/learning-about-cultural-appropriation-a-resource-list.

We really appreciate each artist who has contributed to the Charity Art Paddle Auction, and we genuinely respect each artist’s work and effort while upholding our ethical responsibilities. This is still a learning experience for us, and we hope that you will join us.

At some point in the next year, AO and Waaseyaa Consulting will be sharing more information about the Algonquin community-based art program.


Learning about Cultural Appropriation: A Resource List

Compiled by Waaseyaa Consulting, September 2021

To see all the paddles in the auction please visit https://algonquinoutfitters.hibid.com/catalog/

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