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Philip Cote, MFA

Moose Deer Point First Nation
First Nations Affiliation: Shawnee, Lakota, Potawatomi, Ojibway and Algonquin.

Cote is a Sundancer, Pipe Carrier and Sweat Ceremony leader recognized by Elder Vern Harper and Floyd Looks for Buffalo Hand. Cote received his Indigenous name Noodjmowin (The Healer) in 1979 from Joe Couture and was made a member of the Falseface Society at the Seneca longhouse in 1992.

A graduate of OCAD University’s Interdisciplinary Art Media and Design Masters program in 2015, Cote has been exploring new ways to imbue sculpture and painting through oral traditions of storytelling and with traditional spiritual perspectives. In 2002, Cote was commissioned to create a 1000 square foot mural Kiinwin Dabaadjmowin (Our Story) Mural for the Mississauga’s of New Credit First Nation. As part of the Planet Indigenous Festival, 2004, he was artist in residence at the McMichael Art Gallery sculpting with soapstone. In 2005, Cote created a large-scale mural at Fort York entitled Niinwin Dabaadjmowin – (We Are Talking) a 20-panel, 80-foot mural depicting the rich history of the Anishinaabe people with First Nations street level youth and community members.

Cote’s intent is to bring accuracy to the colonial archives through new research via archival and lived cultural practice and deep understanding of cultural symbolism. His great-grandfather is the great- grandson of Tecumseh, and he is engaged in exploring the importance of the Shawnee leaders’ life and spirit. Cote’s Thesis entitled: Tecumseh, A Portrait, Dismantling the Myth, as an Agent of Change included a series of posters of Indigenous leaders and heroes spanning 350 years of resistance to colonialism and speaks to how Indigenous leadership rose to challenge the expansion and colonization of continental North America. These posters bring forth an Indigenous perspective and voice into the telling of a ‘new Indian’ history of North America.

Cote has been a tour guide with First Story since 1999 (originally named the “Great Indian Bus Tour”) a three-hour tour providing an Indigenous history of Toronto uncovering the last 13,500 years. In January 2017, Cote received a grant from the Toronto Arts Council to create a mural depicting the Niagara Treaty for University of Toronto’s Massey College with the theme of Truth and Reconciliation/Canada 150.

Cote studied Beaux-Arts Style painting/drawing under the direction of Carmen Cereceda Bianchi and figurative drawing with Peter Mah. His in-depth studio experience includes drawing, painting, soapstone carving, traditional drum-making, wood burning, bracelets /chokers, dream catchers, miniature villages, painting on birch bark, sculpting portraiture in clay, and multimedia (integrating illustration with photography, and digital manipulation) and contemporary art installation.

Cote’s academic practice includes public speaking, land acknowledgements, Indigenous Cosmology and cultural interpretation offered at York University, the Art Gallery of Ontario, University of Toronto, Ryerson University, OCAD University, and the Toronto District School Board through the Aboriginal Education Centre. In these Institutions, Cote shares his knowledge on the teachings of the Seven Grandfathers, the Medicine Wheel, Pipe, Naming and Sacred Fire Ceremonies, and the History of the Land. Currently he is teaching the Indigenous Materials & Methods course at Six Nations Polytechnic Institute entitled “Decolonization Methods Through Active Participation of Materials & Methods” a credited OCAD University course for 2016-17. In 2016, he taught “The Telling of Stories” in Contemporary Indigenous Sculpture and Installation.

As an Indigenous artist, the purpose of Cote’s research is to unearth, and reveal, his cultural experience and knowledge of signs of Indigenous symbols, language and interpretation. Openings are thus created both within the archive/academia and broader public that enable these imbedded stereotypes to transform under the gaze of an Indigenous based interpreted presence and intervene in the cross generational colonial bias. 

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