Wildfire Business Transition Project News

Norman Retasket, Artist

June 13, 2018

The following story was submitted by Wildfire Outreach Worker Flora Joe on behalf of the Wildfire Business Transition Project Team at Community Futures of Central Interior First Nations. They were thrilled when they recently learned that Norman had received Red Cross funding.

Norman Retasket, Artist

Norman is the owner of Starving Artist and a member of the Bonaparte Band. Our Outreach Workers were inspired by his story. 

We did a home visit to assist Norman with the Cultural Livelihood application for Red Cross and heard his experience with the 2017 wildfires, which came very close to his home and his livelihood. Norman works out of his home where he has quite a lot of equipment for his drum, carving, and wood working arts.  He gave us a complete tour of his home that consisted of four stations full of drills, bench saws, and sanders and other equipment.

Norman also shares his cultural knowledge with children and students even at the university level. He tells us that he goes wherever he is invited, and from our conversation we learned that one of the people he visited was a drug and alcohol worker at Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centre in Edmonton.

He has traveled to places like the Lower Mainland and as far as Manitoba where he transfers his cultural knowledge at schools, universities and treatment centres. The transfer of knowledge to the youth is so important. Traditionally, our elders shared the history and knowledge through storytelling. It’s not something that was written in a book many years ago; it was shared orally and it is amazing to have elders continuing this tradition today. Without it, the cultural knowledge dies. 

Norman is a very humble man and is very enjoyable to converse with. It is obvious that this is his passion and by doing what he loves he has grown his passion into a successful business.  

He shared with us that he is a self-taught drum maker and, in our travels to other communities, we heard nothing but great things about his abilities.  His first drum he says was “the ugliest thing and smelt bad,” but he kept at it, and before he knew it, he couldn’t make them fast enough. 

During the fires, Norman decided to stay through the evacuation to protect his home and business. He invested in several pumps and hoses and, even with the fire literally across the road from his house, he was determined to protect his livelihood.  He has used his earnings to invest in more fire suppression equipment to protect his investments and home, once again proving how passionate he is. He shared with us that he received grant funding to repair and purchase more equipment for his fire preparedness.

Below we have pictures of more of his chainsaws and the area behind his house that used to have a bridge and what he refereed to as “fuel” - all the dead brush that is a concern for this coming summer.

Norman was one of our first clients that we assisted, and was the first confirmed to be receiving funds from the Red Cross Cultural Livelihood application. Since our initial visit, Norman has invested in his business. He says that he never had intentions on growing as big as he has. Below are pictures of Norman’s van. He said he never wanted a vehicle this new, but with all the requests to speak and give drum-making workshops, he needed a reliable vehicle and added his logo on the back windows. The drums he makes are exceptional and sound even better. You would never know that there was a time he didn’t know what he was doing. And his artwork is not limited to drum making. He also paints, carves, and makes rattles.

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