Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Annora Brown: Trailblazer

Joyce Sasse - Without a doubt, Annora Brown was a trailblazer. Fort Macleod was not much bigger than a settlement community when she was unexpectedly called back home in 1930. But that’s where she replanted herself and, with stubborn tenacity, brought her creative trailblazing calling to bloom.

Her historical and botanical research were a solid foundation on which she built her life as an educator.

Her intensive studies in “applied design” were platforms from which she found ways to prudently provide for herself and for many marginalized women.

An area of work that has almost escaped attention is her life-long commitment to her study of the Plains Indian cultures.

At a time when Aboriginal life-styles were changing and when the Canadian political agenda focused on assimilating Indian children, Annora did what she could to affirm native traditions and make a visual record of their various practises and designs.

In collaboration with J.M. Dent & Sons, who published school textbooks, she drew illustrations for multiple books.

As I try to assess my positive relationship with Native acquaintances, I believe it had a lot to do with those illustrated books.

If these people had a cultural-base that made them proud and could bring healing in rough times, I reasoned, could I also have cultural roots that were identifiable?

As a youth, I envied many Aboriginal individuals. As an adult, I worked hard to analyse the spiritual values and practises they found so enriching.

It is out of that searching that I finally could identify “Rural is a Culture”. My culture, also, “has definite unique spiritual values”. Often our values run parallel with those of various Indigenous cultures.

Searching through the legacy of Annora Brown’s life and work is like being on an anthropological expedition. Studying her relationship with nature, her insights into the lives of the people she met, the multiple ways she was able to express herself with paint and pen, the pride she took in her surroundings … She was a Trailblazer who left significant markers that challenge us to move forward in our times!

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