A group of people sit on chairs gathered in Remai Modern's atrium. A fireplace is lit in the background.

Fireside with Lyndon connects through the art of visiting

Fireside with Lyndon is a free event series at Remai Modern that offers opportunities for community gathering and discussion. Our host is Lyndon J. Linklater, an Anishinabe/Nehiyaw traditional Knowledge Keeper and Remai Modern’s Indigenous Relations Advisor.

The next conversation takes place on October 13, 2023 with guests Fallon Farinacci and Colleen Whitedeer. In December, Fireside will feature Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, Russ Mirasty and his wife Donna Mirasty.

Fireside with Lyndon is presented by SaskEnergy.

We spoke with Linklater about the cultural experience Fireside offers and why visiting is an important part of connecting with one another.

What is Fireside with Lyndon?

Fireside with Lyndon is an opportunity for the public to learn about really interesting individuals in our community. Typically, we try to ask Indigenous peoples to come and share their stories. Some of the themes include this concept called Truth and Reconciliation. Part of Truth and Reconciliation, in my opinion, has a lot to do with learning about our history here in Canada, which includes learning about Indigenous peoples. What I love is having the opportunity to showcase our Indigenous peoples who have worked in various sectors in our country.

What makes Fireside different from a discussion panel or lecture?

I got the idea to show how Indigenous peoples visit one another. With any visit, if you could imagine, Remai Modern is my house, and someone’s coming to my living room, a guest. When you come to an Indigenous person’s house, traditionally speaking, we always offer something to drink and something to eat. So with every Fireside chat, we offer bannock and tea.

There’s always an opportunity for the guests to ask questions, so they feel that they’re connected to the visit as well. After the guest basically tells their story about themselves, the audience members can delve into other issues, get clarification, and learn more.

It’s really laid back. How we do things in the Indigenous community, we do this thing, it’s called visiting. “Let’s visit.” That in itself is so Indigenous. But at the same time, it’s unheard of it seems. We don’t do that in this contemporary culture that we all live in.

Lyndon J. Linklater looks out at the Fireside audience. He wears a beaded medallion and is sitting next to one of the event's speakers.
Lyndon J. Linklater hosts a Fireside visit.

What is a Fireside conversation like?

Ultimately, the Fireside chats are for learning about another human being, what they did in their life, so as human beings, we can all relate. We have all had challenges in our lives. It’s so fascinating to learn another human being’s story. That’s what it’s kind of about.

As an Indigenous person, I always love sharing my culture in terms of building better relations. What better way for anyone to learn another culture than by actually participating in one. Sometimes I’ll have a singer come with a drum, and they’ll sing an honour song as part of the ending. Sometimes we end with a handshake, which is very traditional in our culture, to shake hands. I get everyone to be part of the closing circle, so to speak. It’s a very cultural experience.

That’s part of what Fireside offers, and it’s a great learning opportunity. It goes back to that idea that we want Remai Modern to be for everyone.

Do you know your guests personally?

Some of them I’ve never met before and it’s the first time, and I get to know them even more with this little visit. “Where’d you come from?” “Where’d you grow up?” “Where’d you go to school?” “What did you do?” “What are some things that happened?” In no time at all, the hour goes.

My guests are the perfect experts to know their own lives, so they don’t need to come with no script. They don’t need to prepare, other than to tell their story. Sometimes what I enjoy asking them to do, as well, is to bring some photographs. “Here’s a picture of me when I was three years old.” “Here’s a picture of my parents.” “This is where we grew up.” And so we have this visual, the photographs, and they just tell their story. It just helps to learn more about another human being’s life, so that’s the unique part of it. It’s so Indigenous. It’s so Indigenous, we don’t even know, and people really enjoy that.

Fallon Farinacci stands in a prairie field, wearing a Métis sash.
Fallon Farinacci
Colleen Whitedeer stands before a background of autumn trees, holding an eagle feather.
Colleen Whitedeer

What kind of topics do your Fireside guests speak about?

Well, at the museum we’re always trying to coordinate a Fireside chat with an exhibition that’s going on. There’s been a number of previous exhibitions that have involved Indigenous artists. Some of the topics that they’ve did art about is the topic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, and Two-Spirited people. October also happens to be a month dedicated to that topic here in Canada. So we thought it would be fitting to have a Fireside chat about that. So my first upcoming guest is Fallon Farinacci, a Métis woman from Manitoba, and she experienced firsthand. Her parents were murdered right in front of her eyes as a child growing up, and it impacted her life as well as her siblings. This is something that’s sad to see in our country here in Canada. Every Indigenous person, if you were to ask, “Do you know someone who’s been murdered or missing?” every hand is going to go up. It’s a sad reality, including myself. They could be brothers and sisters, parents. They could be first cousins.

Somebody told me that there’s actually more murdered and missing Indigenous men than there are women. My second upcoming guest is Colleen Whitedeer. Colleen has a brother who was murdered, and then she also has a brother who’s been missing since 2014. His last whereabouts were in Saskatoon and that’s it. Of course, this is another sad reality in our country here.

Both Fallon and Colleen have done a lot of advocacy. They’ll share that part of their story as well, to bring awareness to the general public and public education and of course, ultimately to try and mitigate those statistics that exist with respect to Murdered and Missing Indigenous peoples. We need to change these things.

These Fireside talks are also to instil pride, which is a great segue to talk about the Fireside in December. My guest is going to be the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan and his wife. Russ Mirasty is a Woodland Cree from Lac La Ronge Indian Band. His wife Donna is a Swampy Cree from Cumberland House. They’re the royal representatives for our province, and the first ever First Nation couple to be in that role.

Often what I love to have the public see is that we, as Indigenous people, we’re very intelligent. We are very smart people. We have our life experiences that we’ve been through, but yet we’re still “making it”, so to speak. We’re artists, we’re lawyers, we’re leaders, whatever. This is just a wonderful, perfect example to showcase, to have the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan here at Remai Modern. That’d be a first, I’m sure, so I’m looking forward to December.

Russ Mirasty, Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, and Her Honour Donna Mirasty pose together, smiling at the camera.
The Honourable Russ Mirasty, Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, and Her Honour Donna Mirasty

What can people do to support Fireside after the visit is over?

My dream would be for Fireside chats to become common knowledge in the community, for people to say, “Oh, Fireside with Lyndon? Oh, yeah,” and they’d just come.

I see these people who I’ve become familiar with, being audience members at my Fireside chats, I see them out in the community. For example, they might come to this walk on The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and wear an orange shirt. They did that. They have conversations at home, conversations with their families. We have National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, and there’s a number of events going on. I’ll see these people wearing an orange shirt on that day.

It says something and it’s really positive, in my opinion. I never saw that growing up. There was a lot of knowledge that people did not have. Relatively speaking, it’s not that long ago that the vast majority of Canadians had never heard of a residential school. That’s our history. A lot of these things were never, never taught. So anyways, things like this, what we’re doing here at Remai Modern, is contributing to the general public shift in terms of understanding and awareness. It’s a wonderful thing to see. We have a ways to go mind you, but I do see we’re making a little progress, and that’s good. It’s so good.