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Peter Morin: Feathers are another form of Memory, part 1

>> VIDEO: FEATHERS ARE ANOTHER FORM OF MEMORY, PART 1, Peter Morin with Isaac King. 2022 | 4 min 00 sec
>> Memory Fragments
>> The Winter Count, poem by Peter Morin
>> River Stone Speaking the Story of Tahltan Creation. Morin, P. Circle.  2010. UBCO, MFA Thesis.


Feathers are another form of Memory, part 1

Artist Statement

Feathers are another form of memory started as a meditation on the Tahltan Creation Story. In the story, T’sesk’iye Chō releases the light to the world. I’ve included one chapter from my Master’s thesis Circle (2010) for folks to read. This chapter is the start of my meditations on the Tahltan Creation Story, and most importantly I’ve included the spoken voice of one of our Tahltan Knowledge leaders named Grandma Eva Callbreath. She tells the story to us all. The story starts with a world that is without light. It speaks about a family who keeps the light. The story also talks about the amount of work required to hold and lift up the light. In my ongoing dreaming about this action of T’sesk’iye Chō, and their act of releasing of the light, I also started to imagine what the absence of light felt like on the body. I started to think about the tools required to make this action, this lifting of the light, happen. And I often return to that family who once held the light, and how they must be holding the darkness now. With this spirit in mind, I decided to include an earlier piece of writing, a poem called A study for a Winter Count (2005), from an online curatorial project by Daina Warren and the grunt Gallery. I continue to be deeply drawn into the story of Tahltan Creation, how in the words there is no ‘official’ beginning or ending. The story is ongoing. It continues to develop, and the work to contribute to this cosmology continues. I keep dreaming that T’sesk’iye Chō will one day bring the darkness back, and how we should not be afraid of the darkness.

These meditations turned again towards our mother and her on-going transformations with Alzheimer’s. I was probably 18 when I first heard the word Alzheimer’s, and for the last ten years of Mom’s Alzheimer’s journey there isn’t a day that I don’t think or say that word out loud. I turn towards art making to help me understand/honour/lift up our Mom’s experience. As a performance artist, I decided to become a Time Traveller because I wanted to understand how to support her transformations. I turned towards art not to describe her experience, I turn to art because I want to make work as a way to centre her knowledge and expertise. I can’t tell you how many YouTube videos, articles, scientific studies, doctor’s reports, essays, fiction, poetry that is all filled with words to ‘tell’ us about what her experience with Alzheimer’s is. I’m not trying to be disrespectful to those offerings. This disease is debilitating to absolutely everyone, and these offerings have helped so many of us. And like so many of us who have a loved one living through Alzheimer’s and Dementia, I refuse to see her in any deficit kind of way.
Feathers are another form of memory is also made to honour how Tahltan knowledge is still performed by people who have Alzheimer’s. We enter into this part of the knowledge journey after T’sesk’iye Chō has found and stolen the light to be shared with the rest of us. We enter into this story, witnessing T’sesk’iye Chō who is not afraid of the darkness, T’sesk’iye Chō is doing the work. The movement of the wings continue to move a body across the territory, and that work required to move is recognizable whether that person has Alzheimer’s or not. This return to darkness isn’t able an ending. This is not a fade to black. This is not the end of a film. Light is complicated by darkness in rich and fulsome ways. These complications invite us to reconsider our relationship to knowledge, and the practices of knowledge. Memory should never be about endings. It takes a family, a village, a community, to remember well and in each cycle little Crows share in the work of remaking the world.

Truthfully, my mom’s Alzheimer’s makes me feel lost. This feeling gets magnified daily because time flies, and because our family’s genetic story is also a story that leads to Familial Alzheimer’s. And still, every day, we work hard every day. Our mom works hard. And our family, along with some of our extended family members, have been living this Alzheimer’s journey for the past ten years. Our dad says "Every day is a new day with Alzheimer’s", and he is so right.

I want to acknowledge the incredible contributions of Isaac King, without you, this work would still be waiting to be made.

I want to acknowledge the incredible skill and power of our mom Janell Morin, you are and continue to be a significant contributor to Tahltan ways of being.

Feathers are another form of memory is made to honour how Tahltan knowledge is still performed by people who have Alzheimer’s. We enter into this part of the knowledge journey after T’sesk’iye Chō has found and stolen the light to be shared with the rest of us.

Memory Fragments

The Winter Count, poem by Peter Morin

Click on the hyperlinked text above to read the poem or click the video below to listen to the recording of it.


Tahltan ways of knowing are reflected in the story of light. The story builds a foundation for our continued relationship to the land. For example, in a story where there is no light the development of knowledge for moving on the land in darkness requires a very intimate and sophisticated understanding of landscape. The light reflects a new understanding and even deeper understanding of the environment. The story models how Tahltan people are connected to the Crow person who gave the light. The story also models how we, as Tahltan people, are expected to give back and share what we have with the other members of our community. An important performance in the Tahltan Creation story is the act of giving the light. This significant gift and the act of giving so freely is another key demonstration of Tahltan ways of knowing. The finding of the light was important but this act of giving the light made life easier for all who travel on the land. At the beginning of the story there is no light in the world. Time still happens. People are still living on the land. The light is more like a dream. Tsesk‟iye Cho (Crow) hears the cries of his fellow animals. Tsesk‟iye Cho hears their weariness for the darkness and decides to find another way. Crow decides to find the light. 

The voice of our respected elder Grandma Eva Callbreath tells this version. This version of the story is found in a compilation called Tahltan Native Studies (1984) published by the Tahltan Indian Band in partnership with School District 87. A dedication in the book reads, “For all Tahltan Indian Children… So you will better know and understand the ways of your people.” I‟ve re-edited the published version to reflect the performative nature of our spoken Tahltan language and our Grandma Eva‟s storytelling.

How Crow got the Sun, Moon, and Daylight 
Long, long time ago, there was a man and wife who has a daughter 
When the time came she became a woman, they took her to a cave far from the village 
They put her in that cave and they put a moose skin over her head 
That moose skin came to her knees 
They make her stay in the cave 
Only women can come to see her 
They brought sewing for her to do 
They brought roots and moss and they put it around her neck like a necklace 
Her mother tied just like string around her fingers 
That was to make her so she wouldn‟t be lazy 
They put fancy little decoration right beside her hand where that string is tied 
That daughter couldn‟t see anyone 
She just learned how to sew and make things 
If the women didn‟t think it was good, they tore it apart and made her do it over again 
She learned everything 
Two months she stay in that hole in the rock 
Then they take the string off her hand and the moss and roots from her neck 
They went to clearing and found young trees 
They tied the string from her hand to a brand and it flapped and moved in the wind 
That was to always keep her fingers busy 
The moss and roots they put on a tree to give her luck 
To always bring good luck to her 
Now the daughter could go home 
Her parents wanted to keep her good so she could marry some nice man 
They made little place for her to stay behind their own house 
She never went anywhere 
She just go from her place to her parents 
She was real good and never fool around with anyone 
They watch careful to even see what she want and drink to make sure she don‟t swallow anything to make her pregnant 
Crow, he know that girl‟s father keep sun, moon, and daylight for himself in his house 
He think, how am I going to get light for the world? 
One day he make himself as small as a speck of dirt 
He put himself into her cup of water 
Her mother bring her water to drink 
The daughter say, Throw that water away. There‟s a speck of dirt in it 
So they spill the water and Crow jump out 
He watch that girl 18 
Just as she was ready to drink again, he jump to her lips as just a small speck and she swallowed him 
After a while that girl said, Mother, I don‟t know why something is growing in my womb 
The mother said, Maybe you not careful 
But the girl said, How come? You never see anyone around here? 
They know she‟s been good 
So they wait 
Here, in nine months she have a little baby boy 
They wonder how come 
The father say, Wait until he can talk, then we learn how he come here 
They wait 
That little boy grow fast 
One day he can walk around 
He‟s about as big as my grandchild – five years old 
That kid he see moon on the wall 
He start to cry for it 
He cry, cry, cry 
He won‟t stop crying for that moon 
But his grandfather won‟t give it to him 
He cry until grandmother say, Oh, why don‟t you give him the moon to play with? 
He won‟t hurt it 
Then you can put it back 
Don‟t be so stingy 
So grandfather give him the moon 
That little boy he play with it for a little while then he say, Grandpa, give me the sun to play with 
But grandfather don‟t want to so that boy cries 
Grandma says, Give him the sun, maybe he get headache and get sick from crying 
So grandfather give him the sun to play with 
He play with that 
Then he ask for daylight, Give me the daylight to play with Grandpa 
Grandpa say No 
but that kid cry so much he finally give it to him 
When that boy got daylight, he grab the moon and the sun and quick as anything he turn to crow and fly up through the smoke hole in the roof 
Long ago, you know, they have five on the floor and hole in roof for smoke 
Crow go CAW! and he is gone 
When he get outside, he throw the moon in the sky and theres a great loud noise in the world 
Then he throw the sun up in the air and there is another really loud nose 
All the animals get really scared 
They start running 
The fish go to the seas 
The goats and sheep ran to the mountains 
The beaver to the rivers 
All the animals ran 
That‟s how we came to have animals all over the world 
Martin ran up a tree 
He see crow and he see he‟s got daylight and he shout out daylight coming, daylight coming! 
Grizzly bear was under the tree 
He scared and in such a hurry to run, he put his moccasins on the wrong feet 
That‟s why if you look at grizzly tracks, you see he got toe on wrong side of foot 
All those animals have always had darkness 
Now they got sun, moon and daylight 

(Callbreath, 37) 

Crow's act of giving changed the community relationship to the land. This contribution supported the survival of the family. I see reflections of this today in our community when hunters distribute freshly gathered moose meat to elders, at potlatches when gifts are giving to guests and opposite clans, and when elders share their knowledge. If we were going to try and create a form for the structures of Tahltan epistemological practice, we would see the finding of the light as one part and the giving of the light as the other significant piece of that structure. The light made life better on the land. Life on the land continues. In this sense, the gathering of light could also be understood as the gathering of knowledge, or food, or medicine, or stories, or songs, or laughter, or history, or art, or tears. Tahltan knowledge changed because of the light. 

I want to examine Crow as a speaker of the language. Crow is an active searcher of the light. We know story because the Crow told the story to someone. In reflecting on Crow as a speaker of the language we know that the spoken words create images of the land. We 20 are able to travel on this hunting trip for light. Language is given freely. We see small acts of this giving throughout the entire story. The grandma gives language freely to the Crow. The grandpa gives language freely, as well as his possessions, to the Crow. The daughter gives language to the Crow. These actions in the story reflect performances of Tahltan meaning. If we imagine these acts as performances of language, then we see the grandfather giving knowledge to the grandchild. Most importantly, the grandparents rarely say no. They give freely of what they know. Knowledge is a gift. Everyone deserves to receive knowledge. As a new speaker of Tahltan language I am only just returning to the meaning connected to this story. The meaning, shape of performance, and organizing of structure, can only help us return to the spoken language and return experience to others looking to learn Tahltan language. Then potential Tahltan language speakers become like Crow searching again for light. 

Morin, P. Circle.  2010. UBCO, MFA Thesis. (16-20)


An important performance in the Tahltan Creation story is the act of giving the light. This significant gift and the act of giving so freely is another key demonstration of Tahltan ways of knowing.



Peter Morin is a grandson of Tahltan Ancestor Artists. Morin’s artistic offerings can be organized around four themes: articulating Land/Knowing, articulating Indigenous Grief/Loss, articulating Community Knowing, and understanding the Creative Agency/Power of the Indigenous body. The work takes place in galleries, in community, in collaboration, and on the land. All of the work is informed by dreams, Ancestors, Family members, and performance art as a research methodology. Morin began art school in 1997, completing his Bachelor of Fine Arts at Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver in 2001 and his Masters in Fine Arts in 2010 at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan. Initially trained in lithography, Morin’s artistic practice moves from printmaking to poetry to installation to performance art. Morin’s first performance ‘I grieve too much’ took place at the Museum of Anthropology in 2005. Peter is the son of Janelle Morin (Crow Clan, Tahltan Nation) and Pierre Morin (Quebecois). Throughout his exhibition and making history, Morin has focused upon his matrilineal inheritances in homage to the matriarchal structuring of the Tahltan Nation, and prioritizes Cross-Ancestral collaborations. Morin was longlisted for the Brink and Sobey Awards, in 2013 and 2014, respectively. In 2016, Morin received the Hnatyshyn Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Canadian Mid-Career Artist. Morin is a member of artist collectives : BUSHgallery and O’kinādās. Peter Morin currently holds a tenured appointment in the Faculty of Arts at the Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto, and is the Graduate Program Director of the Interdisciplinary Master’s in Art, Media and Design program at OCADU.


Isaac King is an award-winning animation artist, filmmaker, commercial director, and teacher. Combining handmade and digital animation techniques, his animated work focuses on ecology and society for audiences of all ages. Isaac’s recent MFA thesis work incorporates outdoor animation and installation.

For over 20 years Isaac has been directing, designing, and animating short films, commercials, and PSAs in a variety of animated media including drawn, stop-motion, and digital hybrids. His independent films have screened at hundreds of festivals, been chosen twice as Vimeo Staff Picks, and won many top awards including the Annecy Public Prize, Best Short Film Award at Cinanima (Portugal), CromaFest (Mexico), Cineglobe (Switzerland), and Italy's VIEW conference, and Best Children's Film Award at Kuki (Berlin), Animafest (Zagreb), and Earthvision (Japan). His work has been awarded grants from the Canada, Ontario, and Toronto Arts Councils, and the NFB. While working as a director at Toronto’s Head Gear Animation for 15 years, Isaac’s work won multiple commercial awards including Applied Arts, OneShow Design, Art Director's Club, Lotus, Worldfest, NY Festivals, and Broadcast Design Awards.

Isaac currently teaches animation and character design at OCAD U’s Experimental Animation Program. His teaching experience includes Sheridan College and the Toronto Animated Image Society, where he is now an active board member. He has presented lectures at Cutout Fest in Mexico, the Taipei Film Festival, AnimaAnima in Serbia, SVA in New York, Philippine’s iAcademy, OCAD U and Emily Carr University. 

Isaac is involved in all stages of media production: writing, design, illustration, storyboarding, animation, composition and audio, working with commercial clients, agencies, educational broadcasters, academics, artists and filmmakers. Please contact for collaboration.


This exhibition is presented by the National Indigenous Media Arts Coalition (NIMAC)

NIMAC acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts .