Episode 18: Michelle Sylliboy Ancestral Language, Indigenous Archives, and Poetry

Mar 17, 2021

Episode 18: Michelle Sylliboy: Ancestral Language, Indigenous Archives, and Poetry


In this presentation by Michelle Sylliboy, part of the TIA House guest speaker series, Sylliboy talks about her multimodal arts background, including poetry, photography and fine arts, and her research and work in Mi’kmaq hieroglyphics. Sylliboy talks about her intimate and personal work with Indigenous ancestral language, how these themes relate to her research and academic practices, and what it means to bring all these different voices and artistic expressions together. This presentation also includes a reading from Sylliboy’s poetry.



Since arriving on the art scene in 1994, Michelle Sylliboy an L’nu/ Mi’kmaq Artist was born in Boston, Mass and raised on un-ceded territory in We’koqmaq Cape Breton. Michelle recently moved back to her territory after living and working on un-ceded Coast Salish territory for the past twenty-seven years. While in Vancouver she learned to capture and intrigue the art community with her Interdisciplinary style of work. She gathers much of her inspiration from personal tales, the environment, and her Mi’kmaq culture. Her Interdisciplinary art practice embodies some of her own life experiences, which has led her to work with emerging and professional artists from all over Turtle Island. Michelle combines her artistic background and education by writing about her Mi’kmaq Komqwejwi’kasikl (Hieroglyphic) living curriculum. Her book, Kiskajeyi – I Am Ready, blends modern poetry, photography, and Mi’kmaq (L’nuk) hieroglyphic poetry. She is an educator and artist and has taught Indigenous art theory and sculpture, working with students from kindergarten to post secondary.




2:05 – Larissa Lai begins with a personal connection to land acknowledgement

3:44 – Joshua Whitehead introduces Michelle Sylliboy

5:05 – Michelle Sylliboy discusses language, ancestry, and autobiography

11:25 – Mi’kmaw hieroglyphics and the work of Murdena Marshall and David Schmidt

15:35 – Silk-screening hieroglyphic art on t-shirts

20:45 – Michelle discusses the PhD program at Simon Fraser University, and intervals of traveling home each year

28:40 – Poetry events run by a West Coast collective

33:00 – Reclaiming evidence that shows thousands of years of Indigenous histories

36:45 – Michelle reads from Kiskajeyi – I Am Ready

40:00 – Michelle reads from the poem “Rebirth”

42:45 – Q&A with the audience


TIA House recognizes the generous support of the Canada Research Chairs program and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. We also appreciate the support of the Faculty of Arts and the Department of English at the University of Calgary, where our offices are housed, as well as the guidance of Marc Stoeckle at the Taylor Family Digital Library. TIA House is run by Larissa Lai, Mahmoud Ababneh, Paul Meunier, Joshua Whitehead, Aruna Srivastava, Marc Herman Lynch, Marj Rugunda and Ryan Stearne.

Our Intro/Outro music is Monarch of the Streets by Loyalty Freak Music, accessed from the Free Music Archive.

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