If you’ve ever been to a community event in Calgary, you’re likely to have seen Chantal Chagnon drumming and singing with the Sisters from Another Mother, working as a volunteer, or in the crowd. Chantal is the lady with the pink hair, something that has become her trademark during her journey and it makes her so noticeable in crowds. She is a tireless advocate for many issues affecting people in the Calgary community and works tirelessly for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members alike. She has been busy collaborating with the Union choir, opening up the new CKUA radio station in Calgary, working with the Arusha Centre, and attending other events including the opening of Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin’s film, “We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice”, at the Calgary Film Festival this past week.
Chantal is also the owner of Cree8 Calgary, a cultural endeavour of Chantal’s that “aims to create bridges between people, culture and within yourself”. Cree8 “offers performances, workshops and presentations to share traditional aboriginal culture, crafts and teachings” within Calgary. Chantal and her mother Cheryle have even brought these services to Edmonton, and other areas within Alberta. Currently, the workshops that Chantal offers are Drum and Stick Making, Métis Fingerweaving, Dreamcatcher and Rattle workshops. She also offers private events (including corporate events), public speaking within schools and for youth groups, and is always willing to offer her services for anyone needing a beautiful voice to lift up the spirits of the crowd.
The inspiration for Cree8’s name is derived from Chantal and Cheryle’s Cree heritage, as well as the fact that both Chantal and her mother are “creative natives” that enjoy creating traditional crafts with traditional materials and teachings. The 8 in the name also has special meaning, as it represents the Métis infinity symbol presented on their flags; the infinity symbol has represented the joining of two cultures for the Métis peoples (as well as the existence of a culture forever) and is very fitting for the work that Chantal and her mother do. You can find more information on the Métis flag here.
In 2015, Chantal hosted the 8th Fire Gathering in Calgary, that was “three days of inspiring speakers, powerful performances, informative sessions, interactive workshops, and engaging activities”. Information was shared over the 3 days on information on “Idle No More, Human Rights Issues, Workers & Union Rights, Aboriginal Treaty Rights, Indigenous Sovereignty and Canadian Sovereignty, the Environment, Community Activism, Progressive Politics, and the future of Canada”. She will again be organizing the event, but this time will bring the gathering to Eastern Canada to the city of Ottawa, Ontario. To follow this gathering and keep up with all of the information on dates, check out the Facebook page here. This was a dynamic experience for Chantal, having planned the event, secured speakers, volunteers and space. Her favourite part was seeing the sharing of prayer in 8 different Indigenous languages from across Canada. Chantal is looking forward to again sharing this experience with others.
Attending Chantal’s July drum workshop, I could see Chantal’s passion for sharing culture in action. During the workshop, we learned from one another and shared many stories; it was such a nice experience to be in a room full of people from all backgrounds wanting to learn more about Indigenous culture and customs. It was also refreshing to see Chantal in action, as I have previously seen the drums she and her mother created but hadn’t seen the process of creating one. It set the stage for me to uncover more of her story, as I have known Chantal for years, but after sitting down and picking her brain about her business, being an Aboriginal woman in her field, and the adversity she has faced, I feel that I know her so much better. Here are some more photos from the workshop:
Being in the activist community for years, Chantal has worked with a variety of organizations, corporations, and other activists on a number of projects. Oftentimes, Chantal gives her time for free. When there are events in Calgary, Chantal is often doing media relations, offering her voice and presence at events, or finding other ways to be of assistance. Chantal never expects money nor does she expect any special treatment in return for her service. This speaks to her integrity, as Chantal is truly doing it for the cause and not for any recognition or gratitude. Sadly, Chantal has also had to work alongside with those that seek only payment or acknowledgment during events. Walking your talk is so important, especially in business, but it also important to do so in your everyday life. Saying that you believe in a cause and giving your time and effort without expecting payment or gratitude is one way that one can show integrity.
Chantal believes staying true to yourself is probably the most important thing you can do as a woman in business. Being unafraid to speak out against injustice is also very important; unfortunately, this may come in the form of defending yourself and your work against discrimination or prejudice. The issue of the value of work in our society done by women can often hinder us when we attempt to branch out into business and Chantal has felt this misogyny from people before, even in her own communities. Chantal hopes to see a day when the same work that a woman does is not seen as less to comparable work done by a man, whatever the work may be.
Uplifting the youth is one way Chantal sees this happening; she believes that our youth are the future and they can start to fix the mistakes we have made, given the right teachings. This belief is reflected in her volunteer work with organizations that work with at-risk youth and her work at the K-12 level students; Chantal offers her workshops, as well as music therapy and speaking engagements for youth that get them talking about culture and identity. With Cree8, she was also able to recently donate 120 rattles to Alberta Foster Care Adoption for children and caregivers to utilize. Chantal’s compassion is evident in the types of events and organizations she supports; her tireless advocacy for human rights is something we can all learn from and try to emulate in advancing our society.
Check out Cree8’s Facebook page to sign up for upcoming drum, dreamcatcher, fingerweaving and rattle workshops in October. Also, be sure to attend the 12th Annual Sisters in Spirit Vigil if you are in the Calgary Area on October 4th! Chantal will be leading the march, singing and speaking. You can find full information on the day’s events here. Indigenous Busy-ness wishes Chantal success with her upcoming workshops, an artist’s residency she landed for November in Lac La Biche, the 8th fire gathering in Ottawa, and all the other events she will assist with. Look out for an update later next year on Cree8!