All Together In One Canoe
Story and photos by Leah Morningstar Tattoo by Ryan Pooman of High Tide Tattoo Parlour
Growing up, Ash Moreau always knew they were Métis; their mother instilled traditional knowledge and cultural pride within them from day one. More recently, Moreau found out their father is also Métis, and is from root ancestor lineage. They explain that “when you have root ancestors, that means you come from the original dozen or so families.” Moreau says they were happy to answer questions and tell stories about their culture as a child and that’s still true today. Their enthusiasm is evident as Moreau talks about relatives born during buffalo hunts and relatives who fought side by side with Louis Riel. Being a musician and an artist, Moreau often uses music and art to express themself. Moreau plays the mandolin and the washboard, sings, draws, paints, and does traditional crafting like sweetgrass baskets. The ribbon of Moreau’s Métis identity is woven through their various art forms and extends to this canoe design. Moreau designed it and Ryan Pooman from High Tide Tattoo did the inking. Moreau explains that their tattoo—or rather, the original art piece—was intended to be a logo for a local product with all proceeds of said product going to charity. Unfortunately, the project had to be cancelled, but Moreau still wanted to use the original art piece for something special. “This piece comes from my heart and has a lot to do with who I am as a person, and who I am as a Two-Spirit Métis,” they say. When drawing it as a logo several years ago, Moreau was inspired by ancient pictographs on stone walls and exposed cliff faces. Moreau remembers seeing pictographs on family fishing trips, like messages from the ancestors. They hope their canoe design can also serve as a message one day, maybe to future generations. Moreau explains that they wanted to create a more modern, yet timeless, design to represent humanity going in the same direction. “We are all so different and sometimes it’s hard to come together,” they say. “But if all of us—Ojibwe, Cree, Métis, non-Native—can come together and paddle in the same direction, amazing things can happen.” Moreau hopes the tattoo can be read as an inclusive love letter to humanity, as well as a thank you letter to everyone in their chosen family who continued to paddle with them when times were especially hard.