Skip to content

Artist returns to her roots

She has a passion to preserve her culture. Carlene Joe has been through a lot in her life. She has struggled with drug addiction and watched her friends and family members succumb to it.

She has a passion to preserve her culture. Carlene Joe has been through a lot in her life. She has struggled with drug addiction and watched her friends and family members succumb to it. In January of 2002 her brother, Mark (Chico) Baptiste, died as a result of a cocaine related beating.

She feels bringing her community back to their ancestral roots will help solve some of the drug and alcohol problems that are claiming lives.

"I know what it's like. We have lost many band members to drug and alcohol addictions. I want to bring our community together and make the children proud of their culture. When children don't know who they are, they are easily lost to drugs," Joe said.

She has recently opened a couturing and design workshop in her home on Swiykals Drive committed to creating a "native perspective," in clothing.

She says her business, Ta?ala's Images, is already busy making custom vests, jackets and Christmas stockings displaying a number of different native images such as the wolf, grizzly bear, frog and eagle.

Her long-term goal is to create native dress for a dance group that will perform ancestral dances and songs for the community.

"I had a group before that I made simplified regalias for but I didn't know how to make more detailed regalias," said Joe.

Since that time she has wanted to learn more about native dress and how to create it, but she had many obstacles to overcome.

First she needed to recover from her drug addiction, which she said she did with help from her guiding spirit, the wolf.

"I used to see this wolf on the wall when I was high as a kite and I'd call in my family and they would see it too," said Joe.

She said she knew then the wolf was her guiding spirit, but she couldn't bring herself to look at the wolf while she was using.Once she kicked the habit, she said she was able to open up to her guiding spirit and draw on its power to make her dream a reality.

But it wasn't an easy task. Joe spent a total of three years learning the skills she needed to open her custom clothing store."I spent 10 months commuting every day to Vancouver to learn my sewing skills. I graduated at the top of my class," said Joe.

Then she entered the community employment program and started work on her business plan with help from Community Futures.

"It was challenging to get into the Community Futures program. There were 48 of us trying to start a business and I was one of the six accepted," said Joe.

She spent a year learning how to run her business and applied for a host of community grants to get it off the ground. She received a $10,000 grant from B.C. Hydro and $5,000 from the Sechelt Indian Band. She also borrowed some money from Tale!Awtxw Aboriginal Capital Corporation. Now Joe has over $15,000 worth of equipment in her studio and three trainees who are excited to learn from her. Kathy Marks, Toni Frank and Jennifer Paull are busy sewing new native creations at Joe's workshop. They are learning more about their heritage while developing sewing and seamstress skills, and Joe said one trainee has decided to turn from alcohol abuse.

"One of my crew has sobered up since coming here which is a big part of what I'm trying to accomplish," said an excited Joe.She also works to help recovering addicts through a trust fund she has set up in her brother's name.

Since the fund opened, shortly after Baptiste's death in 2002, she has been able to send three people from the Coast to a detox centre. From there they were able to get into drug rehabilitation programs in Vancouver to receive the help they needed.

She said the Baptiste fund is still open at the Sunshine Coast Credit Union, but there haven't been any donations for a while.

"Right now there's no money in the trust fund," said Joe, hoping people will remember her brother and decide to donate again.

"There are so many people that still need help."

Joe is very thankful for the help she has received from the community, the Sechelt Indian Band, B.C. Hydro and Community Futures to get her business off the ground.

She hopes her designs will create an awareness of her culture, which she says is being lost, and create a pride in that culture for future generations.

If you would like more information about Ta?ala's Images, contact Joe at 604-885-2504. Her store hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks