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Meghann O'Brien

Biography

I am a Kwakwaka'wakw Haida woman belonging to the Kulus clan and Kowas clan, respectively. I snowboard, and am a bloodline weaver of Ravenstail and Chilkat textiles. The name I carry in the Kwakwala language is Kwaxhi'laga. It means '"Smoke Coming Out the Top of the Big House, Welcoming People to Feast and Potlatch". I also carry the name of my Haida great grandmother, Jaad Kuujus, "Dear Woman".

Growing up in the small native community of Alert Bay on the northern end of Vancouver Island I was surrounded by culture, but didn't feel very connected. It wasn't until I started weaving baskets for berry picking that a whole other world opened up. Connecting with the cedar tree, the tree of life on the northwest coast, changed me.

At the time I had spent 15 years of my life in the mountains. I was living in Whistler and immersed with snowboarding, completely driven to succeed as a professional athlete. Mountains were a place for me to find recognition in, a place to push, progress, and prove myself. After moving into Northern BC for a weaving apprenticeship, much of my motivation and direction changed.

Part of my process as a weaver has been learning to work with materials from the earth: bark, roots, wool, and sinew. Working with the spirit of the mountain goat, the original fibre used on the coast for weaving, opened up a new way of seeing and being in the mountains. When one opens to plants and animals as teachers, the lessons are not contained, they touch every area of thought, perspective, and life. I am now humbled by the time spent in mountain environments and have been learning to integrate older perspectives with a modern activity. Although I left professional snowboarding to devote more time to weaving, weaving was also what brought me back into the mountains with new eyes. I now live in northern BC and find balance between my passions, pursuing both as parallel careers.

I love the idea that different areas of society and interests can be bridged, and I hope to offer people an entrance point into new areas they may not have otherwise explored.

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