Wider Horizons

Bryce Many Fingers/Singer (Mano’taanikapi/ First Grandchild) says he always loved to draw, but as a young person, he didn’t take it seriously or imagine it could turn into what it is today. But throughout his educational journey – including a stop at Lethbridge College, where he will receive his General Arts and Science diploma at May’s convocation ceremony – he kept working at it, trying new techniques and embracing new technologies.

Today, he is continuing his education at the University of Lethbridge, studying art and psychology, and he hopes to work as a teacher one day. Wherever his journey takes him, he says he plans to keep creating art. The Wider Horizons team commissioned Singer to create a piece for this home-themed issue of the magazine and asked him to share some of the stories of his life and work.

Tell us a little bit more about your path to Lethbridge College.

I grew up in the Bullhorn area of the Blood Reserve and did all of my education on the reserve. I went to ACAD (now the Alberta University of the Arts in Calgary) right out of high school and did that for a year, but it just wasn’t working for me. I took a lot of time off and had to figure a lot of stuff out for myself, and eventually wound up coming home. I started again and went to Red Crow College and then Lethbridge College where I started in the Indigenous Career Pathways program and then did General Arts and Science after that. I completed the program in December and started at the university in January, and I’ll receive my diploma from the college in May.

Do you have any stories to share from your college days?

During my time at the college, I got to know [instructor] Marcia Black Water (General Studies 2004) a lot better. She is family – her mother was my grandpa’s sister – and it was always nice to see a familiar face. We would talk for hours and it was just nice knowing that I could ask her for help if I ever felt lost or needed some guidance. She would always send me opportunities and keep me up to date on anything happening at the college. Marni Hope, [the Indigenous student support and events coordinator], was also very kind. I would see her almost every day in the Niitsitapi Gathering Place, and I was very fortunate to get to know her. I also looked forward to when they would bring in [Kainai grandparent] Peter Weasel Moccasin. It was nice to hear him and meet the other Blackfoot students, and to have a little bit of community there.

Have you always enjoyed drawing?

Yes. When I was younger, I would just draw for myself. As I got older and started learning, well, it just goes back to that break I was talking about. There was a lot of stuff about my community I didn’t really understand yet. Then I started to get older and tried to figure out who I was in my community and that’s kind of how it started. And I started getting into Blackfoot literature, like Beverly Hungry Wolf – she’s one of my big inspirations. I am a huge fan of hers. [WH: Hungry Wolf is one of the first people from the Blood Reserve to attend Lethbridge College and received an honorary degree in 2011.] I even got a blessing from Beverly and her daughter when I was illustrating some of her stories. These Blackfoot stories are for everyone, and to have their blessing meant a lot. That’s kind of how I started to get into more Blackfoot art, as well as meeting other Blackfoot artists in the community.

How do you use technology in your work, and what are you working on now?

I always like to try different things. I like to get humbled every once in a while. I’m doing a print making course at the university right now and it’s like learning a new craft. It just really makes you start with nothing. But mostly I do illustration. I grew up reading a lot of graphic novels and comic books and that’s where I get my inspiration. And then because of the pandemic, I was just going through so much paper to try to perfect my drawing, that I had to buy an iPad and had to kind of learn to draw all over again. Today, I just prefer people come to me with stories, and it’s nice to collaborate with them.

What are your plans after university?

Eventually I’d like to teach. That’s just another part of me I need to explore. In our community right now, there is no therapist on the reserve or people who understand certain things we are going through, especially with the opioid crisis. I think I’ll always be making art and collaborations. I might try to go more down the road of illustrating for authors. I am a huge fan of Indigenous literature. I love the way people think and trying to bring their ideas to life for them.

Do you find you have a process to create your art?

I just have to be in a good space to create art. Sometimes I just need to be given an idea and then just sit with it for a while, and then when I least expect it, that’s when I start working. I’m always moving so I never have a specific place where I do my work. A lot of times I do my drafts at a coffee shop. My grandparents stay near the border, right in the prairies. It’s super quiet. That’s where I like to draft ideas and finally put the rest of the pieces together and make a final product.

Tell us about the artwork you have created for this issue of Wider Horizons.

The title of the digital artwork is “Red Dogs and Ears of the Earth.” Baby bison have apparently been called red dogs because of the orange-red coloured fur that they are born with before their darker brown fur takes over. Baby bison are often born in late March, and it is said that the prairie crocus plant, Kippiaapi, blooms in the spots of where a baby bison was born. “Ears of the earth” is a phrase often used by [visual artist and naturalist] Annora Brown and Indigenous peoples as these flowers tend to appear in the spring and “listen for the first faint rustle of summer.” In the image, the other two plants are yarrow, Aohtoksoo’ki, and rosehips, Kiniiksi, which tend to appear in the summer and are very abundant in Kainai. In the background there are aspen trees, and the bison calf appears to be in a setting free from fences, cages and other boundaries, which many Indigenous peoples wish to become a reality again in the future.

How does this piece of art relate to home?

The image relates to home as it’s something we’re finally starting to see with the bison returning. Recent films like Singing Back the Buffalo and Bring them Home were mostly inspiration for the artwork. Both films centre on the cultural and environmental significance that buffalo have had on Blackfoot peoples and how their return ensures a positive future moving forward. In 2024, it will also be the 10th anniversary of the Buffalo Treaty, which I hear will be hosted by Kainai, so I was mostly just excited when making the image. Prairie crocus and sweetgrass are very important plants, and with the buffalo returning to more areas where they can flourish, such plants and more will be visible and abundant.

See more of Singer’s work at www.instagram.com/brycemsinger.

Wider Horizons
Story by Lisa Kozleski | Photos by Rob Olson Illustration by Bryce Many Fingers/Singer
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