Stories by Lysandra Nothing. Photos by Joe Stephenson.
Matricia Brown of Warrior Women with Uncle Joe Chowlace
Matricia Brown is passionate about sharing her Cree culture with travellers to Jasper through her acclaimed company Warrior Women. But she didn’t start connecting to her own culture herself until she met her uncle as an adult.
Brown grew up disconnected from her biological family and her culture, until her Uncle Joe recognized her mother’s facial features in her, and knew immediately that they were related. Upon introduction, the two established a meaningful relationship from which Brown would learn Indigenous ways of life and traditions.
“Uncle Joe is somebody that I met later in life in my early 30s,” shares Brown. “He gave me a lot of teachings. He taught me how to drum songs, how to prepare fish.”
Brown recalls her Uncle Joe writing poems and stories that were eventually gifted to her. Even stronger are her memories of her uncle as a great fisherman.
“He often netted big fish down at Long Lake, and he taught me how to prepare them in an Indigenous way and smoke them,” shares Brown. “I’m really happy that Uncle Joe came into my life for a brief time, simply because it allowed a connection to my original family. It allowed me to identify as an Indigenous person in a different way.”
Brown was equally happy to connect with someone who spoke her traditional language.
Those family connections to the land are now a fundamental part of Warrior Women. In addition to offering singing and drumming performances, workshops and guided tours, Brown offers medicine and plant walks, which teach travellers about traditional plants and medicines and cultural connections to the land that she started learning through her uncle.
“I look through an indigenous lens and teach people the medicinal values of those plants and trees and roots,” she say. “I’m passionate about Indigenous tourism because it allows us to tell our story through our voice in an authentic way.”