Regina,Treaty 4: Torrie

(Photo by Aidan Morgan, Introduction by Michelle Brownridge)

(Photo by Aidan Morgan, Introduction by Michelle Brownridge)

Torrie Ironstar is a Nakota artist from Ocean Man First Nation living in Regina, Saskatchewan. He identifies as two-spirit and is profoundly deaf. I first met Torrie about a year ago and fell in love with his painting style and ability to adapt a unique visual language to many different subjects and forms. His graphic use of line, colour, collage and layering appealed to my printmaker sensibilities and I was immediately drawn to his work.

His work is varied and ranges from his own creations to custom commissioned pieces. He uses a variety of mediums within his work including painting, drawing, collage and mixed media. He uses his deafness to explore colour and feeling, which are translated into textures.

He also draws upon traditional Nakota culture and imagery. The collage materials he employs are often related to the subject matter or person depicted in the piece.

In February 2018, Torrie began training and working as a commercial screen printer with the printmaking studio I co-manage, Articulate Ink. There he prints various textiles for clients including t-shirts, totes, hoodies and more. During his time at Articulate Ink, Torrie and I have collaborated on a few projects together including a t-shirt fundraiser, initiated after the Gerald Stanley verdict, which raised over $1,500 for the Justice for Colten GoFundMe page, the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism, and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. As the main commercial screen printer at Articulate Ink, Torrie plays an important role in ensuring the funding model we’ve developed - of self-generated revenue through commercial production, continues to thrive, ensuring the ongoing, sustainable operation of our organization as a whole.

In his short time with Articulate Ink, Torrie has shown an incredible appetite and aptitude for the technical process of screen printing and become an invaluable member of our team. His artwork, concepts and printing prowess continue to evolve and we are thrilled to have such a talented artist and printer working alongside us.

KC: What kinds of projects are you involved in right now?

TI: I’m currently working on some t-shirt designs that are part of my indigenous heritage which is Nakota. It will be a modern design; I want to see people love to wear it and be proud to acknowledge Saskatchewan indigenous culture. Another project, which is on hold at the moment, is about two-spirits, my deafness, and my Nakota identity. It will be on plexiglass panels, transforming two or three images into one whole picture.

KC: What's your day job? What do you like about it? What's challenging?

TI: My job is as a commercial screen printer for a local company named Articular Ink. I print designs on shirts, tote bags, hoodies and many different kinds of fabrics. I love it because it’s a physical job, which I was born to work, any physical job is perfect for me because I love arriving to the workspace, smelling the inks, seeing all the machines and the cans on every shelf, and the hotness from summer warming up the inside of the place. It also feeds my artistic spirit and boosts me to think and create designs for my own shirts. It is very challenging because it requires a lot of precision, it has to be perfect. I make mistakes but mistakes make me to be a perfect screen printer and those printed ones will make happy customers.

KC: What's important to you?

TI: After seeing the news about the teepee being taken down and the mother and grandmother being arrested, and those amazing people who stood up for the justice for stolen children at Wascana Park, I feel disgusted to see that some comments online are so racist and we are blamed for being stuck in the past and told to grow up, move on, and many things. Also I’m disappointed how the government never bother to sit down, discuss with protestors and able to find the middle grounds to solve or able to improve problems that have been plaguing us for a long time. Instead they chose to send police and sacked everything out of the park because they were concerned over the lawns?!  

Why don’t our chiefs or our leaders that we elected to lead us or make our voices heard bother to come by or do anything? They must care about their reputations and federal salaries. It is time to stand up, time to get real people who don’t get scared, who never cave in for some money in the pockets. Fight for people, bring the recognition to the problems that we have been showing them for a long time.

I would love to take that problem, stand up and listen, be able to lead it to the parliament even though I’m deaf. I only care about our people, our struggling and to find peace for those people who lost their children, sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers and are being ignored by those who label us as nothing, accuse us that we get freebies like not pay taxes, get free education and many things -- but no-- we earn it and we work so hard and we are still fighting.

We are still here and we are born to preserve our languages, our cultures, and our identities that are buried so deep in this land. We keep it alive. We have been wiped out before...by wars, removed from lands, starved by massacred buffaloes to extinction, our children taken to residential schools...but we are still here and we are still fighting and we will keep  standing for our home.

KC: How do you think your identity has helped/hindered you?

TI: My identity impacts me a lot because I’m gay but I identify as two-spirits, I’m indigenous, and deaf. My identity helps me understand who I am and who I can fit in with to have similar connections, or same understanding. It’s hard to be all of those things in this society sometimes because some people don’t like gays, some gays don’t like indigenous people, some people don’t like disability which is deafness. It makes me more open, more laidback and more of a listener and more helpful to people. Like someone told me “be yourself, define yourself and your inside will impact other people and it will help others and it will make them feel good.”

KC: What do you like most about Regina? Least?

TI: Regina is my home, I was born and raised here. I have seen lots of changes in Regina over my lifetime. A part of Regina I like is the arts. Some famous artists grew their arts from this city and this city makes humble artists. Dislikes? There is a long list but to make it short - there’s gaps between the indigenous and settler communities, but we will close that gap eventually.

KC: What is your impression of Saskatoon?

TI: It’s huge difference. Saskatoon is more brutal city. It has beauty, and ugly sides. It’s split on the spot. One thing I love about Saskatoon is the national heritage  park (Wanuskewin). They preserve it and remind us that Saskatoon was once home to tribes many years ago.

KC: How do you survive the winters?

TI: I was born in winter so how can I survive the winter. It’s getting harder when I get older because of more adult responsibilities like shovelling the driveway, brushing snow off the car, warming up the car, leaving way earlier and drive soooo slow to avoid some bumper car games. I wear thick clothes and always turn on heaters anywhere. One thing I love about winter is embracing warmness inside of the body.

KC: If you died and could come back as a person or thing, what would it be?

TI: I would come back as a hearing person. I would love to see how it would be, it would be such a different path. But what if I could hear but no artistic personality? It’s fun to think where it would lead.