IRSI Speaker Series: Debra Sparrow


Debra Sparrow was born and raised on the Musqueam Indian Reserve. She is self-taught in Salish design, weaving and jewellery-making. An acclaimed weaver, Debra has been deeply involved with the revival of the Musqueam weaving tradition for more than 30 years. Her artwork is exhibited nationally and internationally, including at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, Vancouver International Airport, The Royal BC Museum, The Canadian Museum of History, the Burke Museum in Seattle, and the Smithsonian. In 2008, Debra received the BC Creative Achievement Award for First Nations Art. In 2010, she designed the logo for the Canadian Men’s Hockey Team for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, held in Vancouver. In 2018, she was instrumental in creating the “Blanketing the City” mural series – a part of the Vancouver Mural Festival. For it, Debra created three giant murals that showcase Musqueam weaving patterns and acknowledge the visual culture of the people whose unceded territory viewers are on. Debra continues to create from her home in Musqueam. She is also a teacher, having taught Salish weaving to hundreds of people of all ages, and she continues to educate others about the history and culture, beauty and integrity of her peoples through her artwork, activism, and speaking engagements.


On September 17th, as part of the ongoing IRSI Speaker Series, we were delighted to present Debra Sparrow, Musqueam weaver, artist and educator. Like her woven patterns, Debra’s talk, “Weaving our History: Education through a Musqueam Lens”, was complex, creative, and delivered straight from her heart. She explored a wide array of topics—from the power in traditional artforms to the weight of words; the need for a collaborative approach to education and the importance of knowing ones heritage. Here are a few excerpts from her presentation.






On the weight of words and the importance of choosing the right ones:



On how making a blanket for the Anglican church was a small step toward reconciliation:



On working with with Dr. Jill Baird and the Museum of Anthropology to co-create the Musqueam Museum school: