ᒫᒥᑐᓀᔨᐦᒋᑲᐣ ᑯᑖᐄᐧᐤ mâmitonêyihcikan kotâwîw – my mind digs into the soil like a turtle

Heather Shillinglaw

Detail ofᑭᐢᑖᐸᐊᐧᑖᐤ kistâpawatâw – she washes” (Lac St Anne)

Special Event

The Artist in Conversation: Heather Shillinglaw

Saturday June 10, 1-2pm 2023 in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia’s Windsor Foundation Lecture Theatre (1728 Bedford Row entrance)

Free admission

In conjunction with the exhibition, ᒫᒥᑐᓀᔨᐦᒋᑲᐣ ᑯᑖᐄᐧᐤ mâmitonêyihcikankotâwîw my mind digs in the soil like the turtle, on display at the Mary E. Black Gallery from May 11- July 2, 2023, Craft Nova Scotia presents The Artist in Conversation: Heather Shillinglaw. We take a deep dive into the multi-layered narratives and techniques Heather uses to create her beautiful, mixed media art quilts. Join us for an insightful conversation with Heather herself as she shares about her work and studio practice.


Craft Nova Scotia is honoured to present the exhibition, ᒫᒥᑐᓀᔨᐦᒋᑲᐣ ᑯᑖᐄᐧᐤ mâmitonêyihcikan kotâwîw, – my mind digs in the soil like a turtle by Métis artist Heather Shillinglaw as one of 7 exhibits in our 2023 calendar year. Steeped in culture and multi-layered narratives, this exhibition is comprised of 10 mixed media textile panels, representing the Indigenous philosophies, the land of Heather’s ancestors and oral teachings passed down from her mother. This exhibition is a radical stimulus for the interconnectivity of community, craft, and culture.

A painter turned textile artist, she stitches into deer hide, applies paint, ribbons, fabrics, while blending hand beading, yarn tufting, and thread painting. Shillinglaw explains “I assemble [these panels] to encourage us to remember, remember, remember… the land as it once was and my ancestors and how they lived within the landscape.”  This work emphasizes the interconnectedness of the people with the land (water, earth, air and sky), whilst valuing the Anishinaabe connection to the ‘four-legged’, ‘two-legged’ and ‘the winged and water relatives’. Ultimately, it is Shillinglaw’s desire that her work “creates and shares art in a ‘good way’ (a sacred endeavor that illuminates the connections between the spiritual and physical world)”.

Have fun finding the charms hidden in each art quilt! Heather hand-sewed small animal charms into each panel. Use the provided legend to guide you through the works and discover all of the hidden details.


Heather Shillinglaw and Craft Nova Scotia would like to acknowledge Heather’s mother Shirley Norris/Shillinglaw and all the elders who supported body of work. Their teachings, through Indigenous ancestral philosophy were an integral part of Heather’s process and vital to bringing these works to life. And to the language keepers for the translation of the titles of all works in this exhibition. A significant contribution to the preservation and celebration of Indigenous languages.

Elder Shirley Norris/Shillinglaw
Residential School Survivor, and member of Cold Lake First Nations, Alberta.
Contribution: Turtle creation story and oral ethnographies of family.

Elder and Knowledge Keeper Lynn Desjalais/Lush
Residential School Survivor and member of Sandy Bay Reservation, Manitoba
Contribution: Anishinaabemowin translations for title of Midaaso-ishi-nisway Miskwaadesi Giizis / 13 turtle moons and turtle and teachings.

Elder Anne Cardial
Residential day school survivor, Saddle Lake
Contributions: Nehiyawewin language, Reserve translations, Roman Orthography to Syllabics. Source: Online Cree Dictionary and Miyo Wahkohtowin Community Education Authority.

Elder and knowledge keeper Lynda Minoose
Educator and Cultural Advisor Cold Lake First Nations.
Contribution: Denesųłįné language & culture.

Published ©2023 by the Centre for Craft Nova Scotia All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. All photography is courtesy of the artist unless otherwise stated.