Pauline Young: Wabanaki/People of the Dawn


Pauline Young, Wabanaki/People of the Dawn, 2020, 91.4 x 152.4 cm, bespoke appliqué sewn nylon flag, Collection of the Owens Art Gallery, purchased with funds from the Ruth Lockhart Eisenhauer Art Fund. Photo: Mathieu Léger

Pauline Young: Wabanaki/People of the Dawn

Wabanaki/People of the Dawn is the first in a new series of commissioned flags created for the Owens Art Gallery’s exterior flagpole. Designed by artist Pauline Young, the flag features two figures in a birchbark canoe paddling from sunrise to sunset and represents the territory of Mi’kma’ki as a living relationship between land and sea. In the artist’s words, “Land and sea, from sunrise to sunset, it is all Mi’kma’ki.” Pauline Young is a respected Mi’kmaq visual artist from Metepenagiag First Nation. In her work, she draws inspiration from the natural environment and the legacy of her father, Philip Young, a renowned artist who exposed her to art at a very young age. Employing a variety of media, including painting, drawing, and stained-glass, her artistic practice carries forward both family and cultural traditions of storytelling and image-making.


Pauline Young, Wabanaki/People of the Dawn, 2020, installed at the Owens Art Gallery. Photo: Mathieu Léger

Installed on the roof of the Owens Art Gallery, which is located in a nineteenth-century, beaux-arts building, Wabanaki/People of the Dawn is an important assertion of Mi’kmaq sovereignty. Every year, the Owens will commission a Mi’kmaq artist to design a new flag for both the flagpole and its permanent collection. Two flags will be made each time: one for the wind and one for the vaults. These flags are sewn, not printed, so that the labour of their makers is physically apparent. Every five years, the gallery will exhibit the flags together, the weather-beaten ones next to their partners from the vaults. This project thus serves as an ongoing land acknowledgement that honours L’nuk (Mi’kmaq) as the traditional owners and custodians of the unceded lands upon which the Owens was built.

To keep this project grounded in community, each artist who designs a flag will nominate the artist for the following year. We are thrilled to announce that the artist designing the flag for 2021 is Natasha Patles. Patles is a talented artist from Eel Ground First Nation with a Diploma in Fine Craft and Applied Design from the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. We look forward to working with her on this important collaborative project!


Owens Art Gallery
Mount Allison University
61 York Street Sackville, NB, E4L 1E1 • 506-364-2574
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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Owens Art Gallery is currently closed to the public.

We would like to acknowledge, honour, and pay respect to the traditional owners and custodians—from all four directions—of the land on which we live. It is upon the unceded, ancestral lands of L’nuk (Mi’kmaq) that the Owens Art Gallery is located. While this area is known as Sackville, New Brunswick, it is part of Siknikt, a district of the greater territory of Mi’kma’ki. This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship,” which the Mi’kmaq Wolastoqiyik, and Peskotomuhkati first signed with the British Crown in 1725.

The Owens Art Gallery would like to thank Mount Allison University, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ruth Lockhart Eisenhauer Art Fund for supporting this project. We are also sincerely grateful to Patricia Musgrave-Quinn, Indigenous Affairs Coordinator, Mount Allision University, as well as our exceptional staff, student interns, volunteers, and supporters in the community of Sackville and the broader Atlantic region.