5 Questions with Prairie Desjarlais (Mica Reimer)

Mica Reimer is one half of the duo behind Prairie Desjarlais. Learn more on social media at https://www.facebook.com/prairiedesjarlais and https://www.instagram.com/prairiedesjarlais/?hl=en

1. How long had the question of paying attention to your Metis heritage been fermenting at the back of your mind?

I really have to throw my hat off to my mom when it comes to this. Having been raised with a dad who clearly looked Métis/Native, I was always aware. But it was more than this. My mom really went out of her way to not just talk about it, but to celebrate it. Whether it was putting little mukluks on us as babies, or letting me purchase a Native doll for my collection from Souvenir shops, she really encouraged this. I actually still have my little Native leather headband she would often have me wear in my hair. She was never ‘afraid’ to let us see a powwow or have Native souvenirs. Below is a picture of us kids in Jasper. You see me holding onto my Native doll and my brother holding onto his new Tomahawk while clinging to his Bible after daily devotions. So precious. Isn’t this how it should be?

Unfortunately, as I grew into a teen and young adult it became less important to me. I think once I had children it became more important to make sure that they knew what their heritage was. Their Métis background is equally important as their Mennonite one.

2. What has the journey been like for you, coming to a place of acknowledging and honouring your Métis history… and providing a way to increase awareness and celebration of this heritage for other people of Métis background?

I’d say I’m still on that journey. I feel like even though inside our home we talked about our Native roots growing up, it wasn’t talked about much outside the home. It may have been out of respect for my grandma during those years. I’m guessing adoption wasn’t a fun topic in some circles, let alone his Native culture. I remember a particular story my dad told me. As a teen he overheard people whispering in Plattdeutsch (Low German) about that ‘Native’ over there… to which he turned around and answered right back to them in Low German. I’m guessing silence ensued.

Because of the occasional story like this, I knew from a young age that there was a divide.

Regardless… myself (and, I assume others) have a pull in both directions. I’ve heard it said that being Métis/partial Indigenous is a tough road. If you’re light-skinned enough, you have the opportunity to blend in… but your heart is pulling you uncontrollably to your roots. And if you’re very ‘dark skinned’ you’re put into a Native box with all the stigma that went with it. And let’s face it, when we ventured out of our town and dared to go past the big city Main Street… that was what we had for our impressions/assumptions. That’s what fed our ‘knowledge’. Even when I was growing up, it’s not like it is now. It was a far cry from all the literature you see now in the schools celebrating cultures.

I want my kids to enjoy learning about their culture. All sides. They were taught to volunteer at the Mennonite (Heritage Village) Museum when they were little. And at the same time I want my daughter to know that she is no less Métis than her brothers just because she came out with blonde hair and blue eyes.

I think every year as I get older I have more confidence to really embrace all cultures of what makes me who I am. Perhaps my kids will feel the same way. Currently though, my kids think it’s quite neat and they are proud of my business partner and I venturing out with Prairie Desjarlais. My husband is an artist and so it’s intimidating for me, however he is so supportive and absolutely loves to see the creative juices flowing.

3. How much did you know at the outset, and how much did you learn?

Regrettably not enough. I do not take after my mom in this area. I am not a history buff at all. Add that fact to a poor memory and it’s a sad story I have to admit. I’m slowly learning more and more. My husband, as well as my business partner Pam, is definitely keeping me on my toes and I’m looking forward to learning more. I appreciate my history lessons with them.

One area that I’ve been learning more about and has been growing my heart towards is the facts/statistics regarding Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women. This inspired the photo with my daughter. It’s mind-blowing to think that if her skin had been darker, she’d be 12% more likely to become one of these victims.

4. What was the catalyst that ignited Prairie Desjarlais into existence, and what’s the significance of the name Prairie Desjarlais?

A few years ago, I started playing around with some things but was insecure so I never pushed hard to really get out there. One day I was chatting with Pam and showed her this antler necklace my dad had given me before he’d passed. It had this painting of an eagle on it. Although that type of art is beautiful in its own way, it wasn’t my kind of beauty. I showed her the back side and expressed how much I loved the natural beauty of the antler itself. We then started to discuss what we could do with it, and our creativity started to flow. I mentioned I had already had a name picked out, and basically the rest is history.

Desjarlais would have been my dad’s name at birth. As well it was important that the name would encompass where we are from. We are from a small Mennonite Prairie town, so Prairie just made sense!

5. Please describe the jewelry you create. What’s has been your favourite piece so far?

So most of the jewelry pieces we create are from antlers, however we really enjoy creating with leather and feathers as well. As far as our favourite pieces? That’s a hard one to say. I honestly think I love a piece, but then love it even more once Pam adds some finishing touches to it. There’s been the odd piece that seems to speak to us which we just can’t let go. In this case we end up talking each other into just keeping it! Ha!

You can visit the Prairie Desjarlais website by clicking here