Fly like an eagle
When Cori Derickson cloaks herself in the feather-embellished cape and starts to do the eagle dance, she feels closer to the creator and to her late son.
“After I lost my son in a rodeo bullriding accident in 2010, I started to see an eagle every day,” said Derickson. “It was a sign. So, I started doing the eagle dance, the highest in Native culture, to heal and be closer to my son and the creator.”
Derickson’s son, Makwala, died at the age of 18 when he was trampled by a bull while competing at the Canoe Mountain Rodeo in Valemont.
Her son was named Makwala after her maternal grandfather, a traditional chief of the Syilx (Okanagan) Nation.
The eagle dance is usually only performed by men, but Derickson, a member of Westbank First Nation, started to do the dance regularly at special events for not just her own reasons, but to spotlight Aboriginal art and culture.
“You really do embody the eagle when you dance,” Derickson said. “You flap your arms to replicate the power and flapping wings of the eagle. I remember the first time I saw an elder perform the dance when I was a little girl of about five and I really thought he was going to turn into an eagle and take to the sky.”
Derickson has been a painter, storyteller, dancer and singer all her life. However, for the majority of her adult life, she was a stay-at-home mom.
“I decided to formalize being an artist in 2010 and I took fine arts at UBC Okanagan,” she said.
She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor of fine arts and has continued to work on a master of fine arts at the university, majoring in performance art and minoring in sculpture, painting and print making with a focus on Indigenous arts.
Next month, along with her research collaborator, professor Virginie Magnant,
Derickson will travel to the University of Toronto and the University of Chicago to perform both individual and dual Aboriginal songs and dances.
Derickson plans to do the eagle dance solo for audiences at both universities.
Derickson also works as the curator and manager of the Robert Bateman Chieftain Gallery at Summerhill Pyramid Winery.
The gallery displays and sells Bateman’s wildlife art as well as a range of Aboriginal art by artists across Canada, with a focus on works by Syilx peoples.
“I’m a long-time friend of the Cipes family (which owns Summerhill Pyramid Winery), so they asked me to work at the gallery,” said Derickson. “The Summerhill property is on traditional land used as a north-south pathway by the Syilx people. There used to be Syilx winter homes on the property and the Cipes have commemorated that by building a kekuli (Aboriginal earth lodge) beside the vineyard.”
The gallery is a hit with locals and visitors alike who are after a piece of distinctive Native art.
“Summerhill is the most-visited winery in Canada and sometimes we’ll see 10,000 people a week through here,” she said. “Particularly the Asian tourists, who come by the busload, want to buy Canadian Aboriginal art.
“Summerhill already has an amazing program to ship wine around the world, so we do the same with art. People can also shop and buy online.”
Summerhill showcased the gallery last month by hosting a Kelowna Chamber of Commerce ConneX networking and social mixer. Derickson sang a traditional Native song at the event as a welcome.
The gallery stocks a range of art from $5 greeting cards, $9 packages of Little Miss Chief smoked salmon and $20 Native-motif scarves to $125 limited edition prints, original art in the hundreds and thousands and a $100,000 sculpture.
Derickson also teaches Native storytelling and dance at the Rotary Centre for the Arts.
Aboriginal artist Cori Derickson, curator and manager of the Robert Bateman Chieftain Gallery at Summerhill Pyramid Winery, is the 31st nominee for Kelowna Top Forty Over 40.