Agnes Yellow Bear

Plains Cree from Kawacatoose First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada

About the Artist

Agnes Yellow Bear, the owner of ReeCreeations, has a gift for clothing design and a heart for social justice issues. The Plains Cree Native from Kawacatoose First Nation, Saskatchewan, Canada, currently resides on the MHA Nation with her husband and children. She is a Sixties Scoop survivor, the daughter of a residential school survivor, and niece of a missing and murdered Indigenous person. This wife, mother, grassroots organizer, and activist uses her lived experiences to advocate for MMIWP and Orange Shirt Day.

As an artist, Agnes combines her passion for sewing and social justice issues to empower Indigenous People and spark meaningful conversations. She brings culture and creativity together through art, fashion, activism, and advocacy. She tries to create pieces that inspire and challenge, telling stories through stitches. Her work has been featured nationally.

About the Art

Still Here

“Indigenous Peoples are still here, despite the genocide targeted at us in the Americas. I created a contemporary statement dress that demands you stop, look, and stare. The T-dress was designed with fully stacked ribbons and ribbon tags hanging off the sides, sleeves adorned with custom ribbons, and words that say, “Still Here.” This dress expresses the beauty of our connection to the land and all things. The plants and flowers in my applique represent resilience; the bear represents protection; the buffalo models generosity, abundance, and respect; and the turtle represents the stability we get from our home, Mother Earth.”—Agnes Yellow Bear (Woodward)

Yellow Bear gallery image

Profile Q&A

What does the idea of “justice for Native communities” mean to you?

As an MMIWP family member, the daughter of a Sixties Scoop Survivor, and the daughter of a residential school survivor, I have long struggled with the word “justice” and trying to find the meaning of it. I can explain what injustice feels like. Natives have withstood war and economic depletion. Intergenerational trauma from 150 years of boarding schools, the loss of land, and being relocated to reservations. But through my healing journey, I have found there is justice in healing, in reclaiming culture, taking up space, and empowering ourselves and each other. When we heal ourselves, we heal our families and then our communities.

What do you think needs to happen in the world to achieve justice for Native communities?

Justice will look different for each Native community. Justice could mean that beyond “truth and reconciliation,” colonial violence is acknowledged and taught truthfully; or that there is accountability from government and institutions that still benefit from the generations of violence Indigenous people face. I would like to see appropriate and adequate reparations, land returned, rent payments to tribes, and large amounts of focus and funding on healing opportunities for Native communities.

How do you express justice through your artwork?

My artwork reflects my worldview, and while I see and feel the injustices that impact Indigenous people, I always choose to create artwork that does not focus on the violence or trauma we may experience. I find my artwork is more effective and doesn’t cause harm if I express the strength, beauty, and resilience Indigenous people carry every day while fighting for justice. We can evoke emotion through our art, and I try to be mindful of the emotions I express and what people feel when they see my art; I want them to feel empowered, validated, and proud.

Is there anything else you would like to share about Native justice and your artwork?

I am proud to share that I created the ribbon skirt worn by Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland for her swearing-in ceremony. It received national acclaim and has become an iconic symbol for the MMIP movement. I would also like to share the poem my mother, Danielle Ewenin, wrote in 1990 that inspired my artistic dress. It puts a real face on the grim statistics about First Nations people.

Give Us Our Land

In 1960 the infant mortality rate was 80%
My mother lost six children before the age of 1.
Give us our Land.
Indigenous Men went to serve in WWII
None of them received the veteran’s benefits.
Give us our Land.
The suicide rate of First Nations People is six times the national average
I have had eleven relatives commit suicide.
Give Us Our Land.
Indigenous Children make up 53% of children in foster care.
Since 1964, 56 of my relatives have been placed in foster care.
Give us Our Land.
There were over 150,000 children taken and put in residential schools.
I have 70 relatives who survived residential school.
Give us our Land.
Indigenous Women are 16 times more likely to go missing or be murdered.
My sister’s body was found outside of Calgary, Alberta.
Give us Our Land.
Give us Our Land.

—Danielle Ewenin