Farmington Hills City Gallery features First Nations artist’s quilts

The works of an artist whose ancestors used the Farmington area region as hunting grounds will be featured in a Farmington Hills city gallery from August 27 through September 7.

Reta Sands (City of Farmington Hills)

Reta Sands’ quilts are representative of First Nations artwork. Bkejwanong Potowatomi black ash baskets and sweet grass baskets by her son, Kendall Sands, will be included in the exhibit to showcase the precise handiwork of the area’s people.

Sands recalls that Nookmis, her grandmother, got her started with the craft after she hurt her ankle skating during the winter she was nine years old.

“When the doctor announced that I was to stay off it for one month, Nookmis decided I had to do something useful,” Sands said in a press release. “She taught me to quilt and tie old winter coats together. We made warm bed coverings. That was the start of my lifetime interest in quilting.”

A fluent speaker of Nishnaabemwin, Sands teaches Native American culture and language workshops. She is from Walpole Island First Nation, known by its members as Bkejwanong, a community nestled between Ontario, Canada and Michigan at the mouth of the St. Clair River, approximately 100 miles east of Farmington Hills.

Occupied by aboriginal people for thousands of years, Walpole Island is today home to 2,000 Ojibwa, Potawatomi, and Ottawa. Having a common heritage, they formed the Council of Three Fires — a political and cultural contract that has survived the test of time.

Descendants of the local Potawatomi Indians, the tribe most closely related to the Farmington Hills region, still reside at Walpole Island.

The City Gallery is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., at 28600 W. 11 Mile Rd.