Top News

Melissa Peter-Paul spearheads Indigenous artisan market in P.E.I.

Melissa Peter-Paul will be selling quill work, like the piece she is holding, as well as bead work Sunday at Founders Hall in Charlottetown at the first Prince Edward Island Indigenous Artisans Market.
Melissa Peter-Paul will be selling quill work, like the piece she is holding, as well as bead work Sunday at Founders Hall in Charlottetown at the first Prince Edward Island Indigenous Artisans Market. - Jim Day

Melissa Peter-Paul, a member of the Abegweit Mi’kmaw Nation, turns to roadkill to fuel her artistic passion.

Traditionally, Indigenous people would catch live porcupines and use their quills to create works of art.

Peter-Paul, 32, of Scotchfort waits until the animals are already dead before she hunts them down.

Since porcupines are not native to P.E.I., she drives along roads in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to “harvest’’ the key material of her craft.

Four years ago, Peter-Paul learned from her cousin how to turn the prickly pointers into works of art.

Peter-Paul caught on well.

Her work has been displayed in a few galleries, and she has sold everything she has made.

Peter-Paul says she can make a great number of pieces from the needles of just one porcupine.

She recently made 140 small Christmas ornaments out of quills, birch bark and sweet grass in just one week.

“This is my passion,’’ she says.

Junior Peter-Paul, a member of the Abegweit Mi’kmaw Nation living in Scotchfort, poses with some of the crafts he makes, including drums made from rawhide and a moose caller made out of birch bark. He will be selling his work Sunday at Founders Hall in Charlottetown at the first Prince Edward Island Indigenous Artisans Market.
Junior Peter-Paul, a member of the Abegweit Mi’kmaw Nation living in Scotchfort, poses with some of the crafts he makes, including drums made from rawhide and a moose caller made out of birch bark. He will be selling his work Sunday at Founders Hall in Charlottetown at the first Prince Edward Island Indigenous Artisans Market.

And just like her ancestors, she adds, she wants her craft to become her livelihood.

She has relied on social media to date to sell her quill work and bead work (she did her first bead work, a barrette for her hair, when she was 11).

Now she hopes to expand her marketing options.

Peter-Paul came up with the idea of having a pop-up market of Indigenous art like her own.

On Sunday, the diverse creative talents of many Indigenous artisans from across P.E.I. will be on display in Charlottetown.

Beadwork, paintings, dreamcatchers, necklaces, quillwork, photography and leather medicine wheels are among the items being sold at the first Prince Edward Island Indigenous Artisan Market.

The market will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Founders Hall, showcasing the work of more than 30 Indigenous artisans.

“A lot of the artisans say they never have a place to sell (their work),’’ she says.

Cultural programming will add to the unique market environment. Five drumming groups will perform. Elders will take part in opening and closing prayers as well as smudging and a traditional song.

The Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. has joined forces with the Lennox Island First Nation and Abegweit Mi’kmaw Nation to co-ordinate this pop-up market to create some retail opportunities for Island Indigenous artisans.

“This public market will provide Indigenous artisans with a wonderful opportunity to display their impressive talent and will provide the public with the opportunity to purchase their unique artworks,” said Don MacKenzie, executive director of the Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I.

"In addition to showcasing Indigenous art, a display of traditional music and customs will make the event a true celebration of Indigenous culture and entrepreneurship.”

Recent Stories