Meet Shelby Lisk. She is a local artist, photographer, writer, and entrepreneur who is rediscovering her roots in the area. Originally from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Shelby grew up here in Belleville and then moved to Ottawa for university to obtain her degree in Fine Arts and minoring in Feminist and Gender Studies. She later travelled around North America, in part working as a wedding photographer — van-life style. After recently moving back to Belleville, Shelby enrolled in the local Photojournalism Program at Loyalist College, where she was the recipient of the Human Rights 2017 scholarship for emerging Indigenous journalists. Shelby has also recently won the National Indigenous Arts and Stories Contest for her poem, “Invisible Indians.”
Shelby describes the experience of winning her recent award as, “it feels really scary to think about people reading things that I write in isolation and don’t usually share. I’m trying to get better at sharing my writing with people because that’s kind of the reason we write – to share our experience with others, to make them feel or think or grow or see themselves reflected. I write out of the hope that someone else might read it and feel less alone knowing they’re not the only one who feels or thinks the way they do. Some of the people on the jury are Indigenous writers that I really look up to and have read for years.”
Shelby is one of the area’s young entrepreneurs who is really starting to make a name for herself as a photographer, writer and artist.
“Since I’ve moved here, I’ve started to re-establish myself. There is a lot going on in this area, I think because it’s such a beautiful place and so many people are moving here. People see the potential in this area.”
“I think the best thing to do as a young entrepreneur is to just do good work. Because if you’re doing good work, and doing work that you want to, good work will find you.”
Not only is Shelby keeping busy with personal projects and work, she is also in the process of completing her diploma for Photojournalism at Loyalist College.
“I kind of took going back to school for photojournalism as my license to go in and ask questions.”
Although it’s not every day that you get to meet new people and have them tell you their story, studying photojournalism is one way Shelby is working towards that.
“As a regular person, you don’t just go up to people and say, “hey” and can I ask you a bunch of questions about your life and can I come sit in your home? And see what you do?” So, it gave me a reason to ask all the questions that I already had.”
Returning to the area was a key component in her reconnection with her Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory background.
“For me, I knew right away that what I wanted to do stories on Tyendinaga and Indigenous people.”
Shelby describes the importance of being close to Tyendinaga when it comes to the location of the Photojournalism program and being able to focus on her connection to the community.
“It takes a lot of work and getting to know people. Like it does in any small community, but I think especially for an indigenous community, who have been hurt so much from outside of it. It’s important to be extra sensitive and extra careful. And want to protect Indigenous identity because it can be appropriated and taken away.”
Returning to the more natural side of things, the in the works Kenhtè:ke Seed Sanctuary and Learning Centre, located in the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, is one of the ways Shelby is using her photojournalism skills to both document and learn about her roots. Literally.
“A seed sanctuary is not the traditional practice of Mohawk people. It is a practice that we are adopting and that we’ve seen other places. Since a lot of our communities are urbanizing and we don’t want to lose those traditions, we want to bring the traditions to a space where people, especially youth, can come and learn. Traditionally, you wouldn’t learn about the seeds that grow in an education learning center, that knowledge would be passed down in the home from parents and grandparents. You would grow up with that and then it would be a part of your ceremonies and a part of your life. So, it’s a very different way, but I think it’s kind of what the community needs right now.”
Stay tuned as we discovery more impressive locals and young entrepreneurs right here in the BoQ.