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At her family ranch on the Tsuut’ina Nation in Treaty 7, Indigenous artist Livia Manywounds, 34, stands behind high school graduate Autumn Jules, 18. Manywounds created the dress Jules is wearing from a Pendleton blanket given to her by her parents to commemorate her graduation. Pendleton blankets are often given to mark achievements and special occasions. While the blanket has Indigenous designs, it’s not an Indigenous-owned company. Repurposing the blanket “is kind of a symbol of reclaiming our identity as Indigenous people and the resilience that we carry forth,” Manywounds says.

Sarah B Groot/The Globe and Mail

Livia Manywounds, an Indigenous designer, artist, crafter and horsewoman, creates one-of-a-kind formal wear from her family ranch on the Tsuut’ina Nation in Treaty 7. She learned to sew in junior high school and was accepted to fashion school in New York, but was unable to attend because of funding.

Her creativity was reignited a few years ago when she became a caregiver for her mother after a cancer diagnosis. “I needed something to do because I had to take time off work,” she says. “I brought out my beads and my needles and started beading and then I started sewing.” Manywounds set herself up by her mom’s bedside and immersed herself in her art. “I started posting things online and soon enough I started getting orders.”

It was during this process of caregiving and creating that Manywounds discovered a path that combined her passion with her roots. She found herself digging in deeper about her history, about who her ancestors were, their stories, the symbolism and the traditions that were passed down. “I like to incorporate where I come from,” she says, carrying on the legacy of her grandmother’s beading and sewing and her grandfather’s designs.

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Ashley Wright, an Indigenous artist from the Siksika Nation, wears the signature double strand floral set from her business, Ninaamskaakii Jewels, and a skirt by Manywounds. Wright named the set “The Julia,” after her grandmother. Each product sample Wright creates is named for family and friends who have inspired, supported, and helped her in achieving her dream. Wright seriously got into beading during the pandemic. “There was so much anxiety and fear and worry when it first hit, I think beading at the time was my healing,” she says.

Sarah B Groot/The Globe and Mail

Manywounds at her family ranch home. She beaded the felt hat, and wears a necklace and earring set by Ashley Wright. Behind her are family photographs, including images of her father, who won the Calgary Stampede steer-decorating competition in 1953, and her grandmother, Annie Manywounds, who was a teepee owner in the Stampede. Manywounds was crowned the Indian Princess, now First Nations princess, at the 2007 Calgary Stampede.

Sarah B Groot/The Globe and Mail

Cellia Amos-Manywounds, 10, wears a dress and felt hat created by her aunt Livia Manywounds, and a necklace and earring set by Ashley Wright.

Sarah B Groot/The Globe and Mail

Shayne Manywounds, 8, wears a shirt and felt hat designed and made by his aunt Livia Manywounds, as well as necklaces by Ashley Wright, who founded her business, Ninaamskaakii Jewels, in May. White, the horse, wears regalia made by Manywounds that has been featured in the Calgary Stampede parade.

Sarah B Groot/The Globe and Mail

Autumn Jules, whose father is from Skeetchestn Indian Band and mother is from Coldwater Indian Band, wears designs by Livia Manywounds and jewellery by Ashley Wright. “I like being connected to the Native ways and culture as much as possible, even if it’s just wearing the jewellery,” she says. During the pandemic, Jules, who graduated in June, found school stressful due to the constant shifting from in-person to online learning. She is looking forward to taking time to get back into modelling and to continue learning her Shuswap language.

Sarah B Groot/The Globe and Mail

Some of the beadwork by Ashley Wright, including a Calgary Flames Blasty medallion, is displayed at Livia Manywounds’s home on the Tsuut’ina Nation in Treaty 7.

Sarah B Groot/The Globe and Mail

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