Hugh McKenzie, Temagami Ontario Member Since December 2009 Artist Statement My name is Hugh McKenzie; my spirit name is Zaagiidgeaway Gabo (Stands near The top of the hill). I am a 67 year old Ojibway Elder, Artist, Musician & Traditional Healer from Temagami First Nation, Bear Island ON. P0H1C0. I lived my early childhood in the traditional native way on our family trap-lines on Lake Temagami, hunting, fishing and trapping. During our winter months I learned about our lifestyle and spiritual ways through the Elders and Medicine People. Storytelling and spiritual teachings were given to me by my Grandfathers, Grandmothers and parents. This was the beginning of the “Seven Grandfather Teachings”. During these early years I also understood how family lifestyle teachings were the strengths to help us into adulthood. I watched as my childhood friends were taken away to resident schools by the Indian agents and policemen. This would have a deep affect on me for the rest of my life. When they returned home I saw their emptiness and low self worth and lack of interest in family lifestyle and spiritual culture and growth. I lost many of my best friends to suicide. I believe our Sacred Healing Ceremonies and the Seven Grandfather Teachings is the true healing path to help guide us to forgiveness of ourselves and others. The path of recovery of old values and traditional spiritual ways will help all people who seek Oneness with our Creator. I struggled with my alcohol addiction for 40 years. It was through the Sweat-Lodge, Healing Lodge and Sharing Circle Teachings, that I was helped, and came around to self awareness, honesty and acceptance of myself and my personal commitment and belief in our Creator. I will celebrate 20 years of sobriety this year. I have participated and facilitated in many different teaching/healing events, Sweat Lodge, Healing Lodge, Sunrise Ceremony, Hand Drum Making, Sacred Pipe Ceremonies and I continue to follow the 12 step recovery program.
I use my art and music as tools for “Healing with Art and Music” in art classes that I teach throughout different communities, schools and Cultural Centers on and off reserves. I have been running my own art gallery from our home on the Bear Island reserve for the past 25 years. Childhood friend Benjamin Chee Chee and I have been drawing Canadian Geese, animals, and wildlife since childhood, seeing and feeling the lost of my childhood friend Benjamin in 1976 was very devastating, I continue to paint and share my recovery and help other youth and artists using our traditional native teachings Miigwetch, Elder Hugh McKenzie