Janelle Alphonse, daughter of Louise, is a pow wow dancer. Her regalia is made by her mother. Submitted photo.

Canim Lake Band native discovers passion for pow wow regalia

‘It’s a spiritual gift and every child should have the opportunity to dance’

Louise Alphonse started her artistic career with an act of selflessness.

Her daughter was a pow wow dancer and they went to a pow wow in Alberta where everybody was wearing beadwork and impressive regalia. Her daughter was upset and wouldn’t dance, so Alphonse asked why.

“She said it was because she didn’t look as good as the other people,” Alphonse said. “So I took it upon myself to learn how to bead and how to make regalia so she could dance.”

Originally from the Canim Lake Band, but now based in Kamloops, Alphonse learned everything about beading and buckskin herself, through trial by error.

Her work on her daughter Janelle’s regalia started to get noticed when Janelle went on Powwow Trail, a series of pow wows occurring in Alberta, B.C. and parts of the U.S. People liked what they saw and started to order work from Alphonse.

Alphonse said her favourite part of beading is creating different designs, using different colours and just getting creative. She said the act has also taught her patience.

Raised by the Elders of the Canim Lake Band (Eliza, Joe, Dora and Lizzie Archie), Alphonse said Eliza Archie used to make her count beads.

Alphonse would also watch Lizzie Archie do buckskin work — vests, moccasins and more — when she was little.

However, Alphonse didn’t start doing any buckskin work of her own until five years ago, after the then Chief of the Clinton Indian Band asked her to make a vest.

“He also asked me to make his headdress and that was the first headdress I ever made too. That was the only one I ever made. It’s kind of a sacred thing. People have to ask you to make it. You just can’t make it,” she said.

RELATED: Canim Lake Band a ‘Share the Care’ finalist

Alphonse is the former editor of the Secwepemc News, a newspaper distributed throughout the 17 Shuswap nations, and its closure five years ago allowed her to focus on her artistry full-time.

The same year that the newspaper closed, Alphonse entered a contest in Kamloops, called The Mother of Earth. She used a pair of fully-beaded moccasins with a bear paw as her entry, winning first place.

“It made me realize how good my work really is. I had a lot to offer because we all doubt ourselves, you know? It gave me a boost of confidence so I started going public,” she said.

She also did commissions for the BC Summer Games in 2006 as well as commissions for people as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

Alphonse travels to a lot of pow wows. When she sees kids who have no regalia, she said she takes it upon herself to make them some.

She said it makes her happy to see the children dancing and happy.

“It’s a spiritual gift and every child should have the opportunity to dance,” she said.

The biggest challenge Alphonse said she faces in her line of work is not having enough time in a day.

She is also about to take on her biggest project yet, beading an entire traditional woman’s regalia, which would take two years to make.

“I have the pattern all cut out. I’m just creating a design right now. Usually, when creating, I give an offering of tobacco and I just wait until the design comes to me,” she said.

However, when it’s complete she will most likely sell it. She is not a dancer herself, and her daughter who is now an adult no longer dances either.

“I just want to do it because it’s a challenge to me.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Missing 100 Mile House teen found deceased

The teen was last seen heading towards Centennial Park in 100 Mile House around 5:30 p.m.

Motorcyclists making their way to 100 Mile House

A weekend of riding, rallying and activities

At Educo, everything is an adventure

Somewhere between climbing high and holding on for dear life, I let my worries go

Unheard of sports

A weekly sports column from the 100 Mile Free Press

From volunteer to site manager, Educo veteran reflects on summer camp’s impact

“You get to teach a lot of skills that you wouldn’t in regular schools”

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Most Read