By Ivan Morin
with permission from
I've seen Pow Wow dancers wear them and seen them on display in a number of Aboriginal businesses, but have never given any thought to what it would take to make a Chest Shield, or even an intricately designed choker.
In the past few weeks I have had Jim Blue Bear in my office, the maker of some of the Chest Shields and chokers you might see on dancers, or displayed in place like Wanuskewin Park, an Aboriginal historic site outside of Saskatoon.
Blue Bear, a 34 year old member of the Kinistin First Nation in Northeast Saskatchewan, has been making Chest Shields, chokers and designing other crafts over the past fourteen years. Blue Bear was raised by his grandmother and states he had a good upbringing. He states that he had no formal training on how to do crafts or make dance outfits, but simply came on the idea one day and started making a dance outfit. " It must have been in my blood. A talent given to me by the Creator," states Blue Bear.
Blue Bear, who has been back in Saskatoon for a year after being on the West Coast and the United States for the past few years, is finding it difficult to sell his crafts here. He believes this is because of the price of the crafts, which generally run in the area of one to three thousand dollars. He states that most of the people here are not used to paying such high prices for this type of craft.
His time in the United States was spent in Arizona and California. He has sold a number of his shields and crafts to a number of Native American Casino's. "In the States it seems the people are more interested in this type of craft, because I very seldom had to haggle over my prices there. Here in Saskatchewan I have sold only one to the Saskatchewan Arts Board and I had to come down a lot in my price to sell the article." The Chest plate is now on display at Wanuskewin Park.
Blue Bear hopes to increase his sales here and states if things do not improve he may have to move back to Vancouver, or the States if he wants to make a living doing his crafts.