Indigenous at AWE

Art Windsor-Essex
7 min readSep 20, 2023
Detail from Daphne Odjig: Our Mothers curated by Julie Rae Tucker photography by: Frank Piccolo, Windsor ON

Koolamalsihmwa weemu aween, Hello everyone!

The following are some great projects we have been doing at AWE that intersect with my own knowledge and growth over the last few years and some of what we plan to do going forward. My name is Julie Rae Tucker; I am a member of the Munsee Delaware Nation and of settler descent and follow the ways of the turtle. This is my introduction in huluniixsuwaakan, the language of the Lunaapeewi (Lunaape/Lenape people). Nii dshiinzi Juleesh Tucker. Nii Noonjiyayi Nalahii, Naawaalootamun Wundakw Takwax

I am the Head of Programs and Projects at Art Windsor Essex. I started at the gallery in 2020 and have held this new position since March 2023. I am also a collaborator on the Munsee Delaware History and Language Project, a member of Three Collective and sometimes a maker of things & language learner.

What is Indigenous at AWE?

Grey Matter: Your Brain on Art, Curated by Julie Rae Tucker. Justin Elliott @jel_media

A guiding principle for this concept is to support our vision to develop into a community-driven art gallery for the 21st century. Indigenous at AWE means we will work with the community, artists, and cultural workers to co-develop Indigenous-led projects and exhibitions. We are dedicated to presenting projects year-round and to provide mentorship for youth. Much of our work is done internally and quietly and supported by dedicated staff, partners, and volunteers. The intention of this article is to share the great work we have been collaborating on and to offer a sneak peek into the winter season.

Note on the word Indigenous

Roy Thomas, Water Clan, 1992, lithograph on paper 20/115, Gift of the Estate of Elizabeth Gillespie, 2003

When using the term Indigenous, we are referring generally to three distinct peoples: First Nations, Metis or Inuit. I often use this word while writing grants or other documents to work within a limited framework. I prefer to be specific when talking about individual people when I can. Within those three distinct peoples, there is specificity and complexity in how people identify, and people will share with you what they prefer to be called. There are several different languages and dialects that are spoken in this community. For instance, Nii dunlunaapeewi; I am a Lunaape person from Munsee, Delaware, First Nation. We call it a “Munsee” dialect. There are two dialects in the neighbouring community of Eelūnaapèewii Lahkèewiit(the Delaware of Moraviantown). A person from Bkejwanong (Wapole Island) might say. I am an Anishinaabe Kwe. I am an Anishnaabe woman. Because of the history of colonization that included forced assimilation, re-naming, misunderstanding and many other complex histories, people and communities have adopted many names and use these interchangeably and differently depending on the context.

Indigenous Peoples Days

Justin Elliott @jel_media at AWE at Night Melissa Greenbird pictured.

We had over 1269 attendees throughout the 4-day festival. Students from the Greater Essex County District School Board attended tours and activities. We were one of the only non-Indigenous organizations to hold an event celebrating Indigenous People Days.

Justin Elliott @jel_media at AWE

We did a series of watercolour workshops with Beam paints. Its owner, Anong Beam, is the daughter of Anne and Carl Beam, whose work is in our Collection. The pigments are made of tree sap, gum arabic, and Manitoulin honey.

At the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University

From Left: Mary Jane Logan McCallum, Jackie Thomas and Julie Rae Tucker

Princeton is in New Jersey and, along with New York, is the traditional territory of the Lunaape people. We gathered for a language camp in the fall of 2022 and the summer of 2023. Over the past year, I have shared our work on exhibitions and projects at the Institute of Advanced Study. This is a unique opportunity to learn about Lunaape culture, language and history with other Lunaape people and scholars from across the globe.

Image: Lenape pulling corn grown at the Princeton Experimental Farm
Outside Fuld Hall at the Institute for Advanced Study.
Ariel Ackerly (PUL Makerspace) and Julie Rae Tucker (Munsee Delaware Nation) prepping for Munsee language button making at the Makerspace. Photo credit: Melissa Moreton.

Collaborating with the Indigenous Circle

Justin Elliott @jel_media

Over the past three years, we invited a circle of Indigenous community members to consult with us on AWE’s Decolonization and Truth and Reconciliation efforts. We have discussed what kind of programs and exhibitions the group can co-create and the importance of youth involvement. AWE is working on its accountability structures and building all we have learned into an action plan. We will continue to work with the Circle to consult on our digital strategy and provide support for Indigenous-led community events as invited.

Nii Ndahlohke / I Work

Donna Noah, Wulaapasihkan, 2021. Size 11 2-cut beads, size 11 Miyuki Delica beads, deer hide, gold cones, gold connector hoops, thread.

Nii Ndahlohke / I Work brings together existing works and new commissions by First Nations artists. The show explores the forced labour of students at Mount Elgin Industrial School (1851–1946). Located on the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation near the Thames River, Mount Elgin is one of the closest residential schools to our region and also has a memorial. The exhibition will open on September 26th.

To book a school tour or a guided employee development tour to expand your workplace's knowledge of the residential school system, please contact

September 30th

Join us as we support the Indigenous community’s programs for Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters walk on September 30th at 12pm in the Vision Corridor. AWE is offering Free Admission for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in partnership with the Chimczuk Museum — 401 Riverside Dr. West Windsor, Ontario.

We have activities starting at 10am in the 2nd floor Education Studio led by RBC Emerging Artist in Residence, Krystal Bigsky. In this workshop, Krystal will show you how to create your own orange shirt pin with felt and beads.

At 10:30am, meet the artists and curators from Nii Ndahlohke. The tour will begin at the second floor Education Studio.

Waawiiatanong Forever

Justin Elliott @jel_media at AWE at Night

Waawiiatanong Forever will be an exhibition focusing on the representation of women and 2spirit folks and their families in the community. Community members would present themselves as contemporary people alongside the street signs in Windsor that bear their nation’s name. Currently, photography is scheduled from August- to November 2023. We will be putting a call out for an Indigenous youth for a paid mentorship opportunity to co-curate the exhibition. The exhibition will be presented in the Winter of 2024.

Healing & Wellness through Indigenous Wear & Fashion

Photography Sean Chooti. Ribbon skirt making class

In partnership with Can-Am Indian Friendship Centre of Windsor, AWE is hosting fashion and design workshops for Indigenous youth in Windsor-Essex. The focus is on wellness, led by Lacey George. The youth will create a complete head-to-toe look and participate in a fashion show designed by the young participants. We are hoping to continue this program through 2024. This program has been made possible through the Centre for Art for Wellness, where we partner with 4 new organizations annually focused on wellness. This program is generously supported by the Solcz Family Foundation.


AWE at Night workshop with Shane Lyon. Justin Elliott @jel_media.

Come work with me! Working in a creative environment can open doors to exciting opportunities and career paths in fields in and beyond the cultural sector. This program will provide the mentee with invaluable opportunities to learn from industry professionals and develop new skills, in support of their future career. Click HERE to apply.

Anushiik to all the baddies who have helped me in this work and who have taught me so many things. Big thank you to the Indigenous circle for having time and space to have difficult conversations. My curatorial cousins and late matriarchs Karen, Meg, Norma, Gloria and Cale.

Indigenous at AWE is generously supported by The Sheila and Paul Martin Foundation.

If you would like to support these special programs, contact Laura Service at



Art Windsor-Essex

Art Windsor-Essex (AWE) is a non-profit public art gallery that uses the power of art to open hearts and minds to new ideas. Change happens here.