Indigenous art through the looking glass: An interview with the Brascoupé sisters

Published on
June 14, 2024
Arts, heritage and events
Hello, My name is Emily Brascoupé-Hoefler.
I am from Kitigan Zibi and I am from the Bear Clan.
Hi, my name is Emily Brascoupé-Hoefler.
and I'm from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabek living in Ottawa, and we are from the Bear Clan.
And my name is Claire Brascoupé.
I'm from Kitigan Zibi, also living in Ottawaand today our sister is not here.
Her name is Mairi Brascoupé.
The canoes are a really important piece of technology that have been used for thousands of years.
In the conversation with elders, we initially had more people in the canoe, and they said, wait a minute.
You can't have that many people in a canoe, it’ll tip over.
And so we refined our image and they were happy with it.
And. Yeah, yeah.
So this is a mock up of what the future library will look like from the outside.
And these strawberry designs are designed to be bird friendly.
And so to help our feathered friends around the building that's a lot of glass.
We're still acting as stewards of the land.
And, you know, just to remember that we have a history here
and hopefully people will be excited to learn more about our community and about our culture and language.

This feature story is the first in a series profiling the Indigenous artists behind the Ādisōke Indigenous Public Art program.  

When Ādisōke opens in 2026, it will not only serve as Ottawa’s new Central Library and home of Library and Archives Canada’s in-person services in the National Capital Region, but it will also be a place to see breathtaking works of Indigenous art.  

Claire Brascoupé, Mairi Brascoupé, and Emily Brascoupé-Hoefler of Kitigan Zibi Anishinābeg are three of the artists whose work will be featured in the new facility.  

“Our artwork for the Ādisōke facility is for the interior and the exterior windows. It involves lots of plants and nature,” explains Claire. “I like that even when people are inside the building, they’ll be able to reflect on the nature found on Algonquin territory.” 

The exterior windows will feature small strawberries throughout the glass, which will help reduce the risk of bird collisions, while also showcasing an important natural element.  

“Strawberries, odehimin in Algonquin, or heart berries, are a medicinal plant and powwow staple drink,” Emily explains. “We have some amazing memories of picking wild strawberries with our grandparents at their home in Kitigan Zibi Anishinābeg.” 

“Strawberries are also the first fruit to grow after the winter and are a sign of good things to come,” adds Mairi. “They are important to survival and reiterate that message of our relationship to the land.” 

The interior windows will feature canoes that tell an important story. As Emily explains, “Canoes are an amazing example of Algonquin technology. The birch bark canoe was used to travel the waterways in this region and is a beautiful practice that continues today.”  

When people visit the Ādisōke facility, they will have the chance to reflect on the stories and history of the land.   

“Our art is inspired by our family stories, traditions and knowledge shared by Algonquin Elders as a part of the development process. We are highlighting plant knowledge, Algonquin technology and a commitment to the land in our designs,” explains Emily. 

“We want Algonquin folks to feel represented with this work, and for everyone that sees the work to know that important knowledge exists not only in books, but in our relationships, both to the natural world and to each other,” concludes Mairi.  

 To learn more about the Indigenous Public Art program, visit  

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