Erin Brillon - Bio
All of my life I have been a bridge person, I am at home and walk easily between the Indigenous and modern worlds. Having grown up in city, small town and village (Vancouver, Prince Rupert and spending time in Haida Gwaii), has provided diverse environments for which to experience the world.
The theme of my life’s work is the empowerment of Indigenous peoples. My work experience over the last 26 years has been in deep connection to my people. From my early teens I was assisting my mother, Edna Brillon, in promoting, marketing and selling Northwest Coast Native art. Growing up in the field of a thriving and internationally revered art form has had a lifelong impact. Being close family friends (distant relations) to famed Haida artist Bill Reid profoundly influenced my life. Art show openings, urban Indian feasts and Indigenous gatherings were a regular part of my life. I grew up with a deep sense of pride and reverence for my culture.
The experience of attending Phil Lane Jr.’s Four Worlds Gathering in Lethbridge Alberta was my first introduction to learning the deeply spiritual aspects of my Cree culture, when I was 17. Surrounded by Indigenous peoples from across the globe in ceremony was grounding and simultaneously mind expanding. This is when I began to grow a deep appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things, including the pivotal mind-body-spirit connection.
Since then, I have been active in my personal development following the foundations of the Medicine Wheel, through participating in various tribal ceremonies and attending a variety of personal development workshops and seminars. I have come to realize that I have a far greater than average capacity to give of myself because of the healing work I have done throughout my life.
As a young adult, I moved into the area of developing and coordinating healing programs on Indian Reservations throughout B.C. These programs addressed the intergenerational effects of colonization and the traumas of the Indian boarding school system. This provided me with an in-depth experiential understanding of the issues that are at the heart of the disempowerment of our people and its implications on race, class and gender. This work opened me to a profound sense of purpose early in life.
For nearly 10 years, I worked for an Aboriginal non-profit, Wachiay Friendship Centre, which provides a variety of social programs for Aboriginal people on Vancouver Island, Canada. My work focused on the development, management, and facilitation of a variety of youth and family based empowerment programs. Three years into this work I realized my ability to create a positive impact was limited due to my lack of higher education. During this time I completed a bachelors degree in Liberal Arts; through which I did two Study Abroad excursions, one in Greece and the other in Italy. The basis of Liberal Studies is to provide an understanding of the influences and great minds who have shaped Western Civilization through art, science, religion, philosophy, literature and politics. I hold a minor in Psychology and focused much of my personal studies in developmental psychology.
I volunteered with the Earth Guardians, an Indigenous environmental NGO in Boulder, Colorado. Through the many events and activities I’ve participated in, from the Unity Concert in South Dakota to the Peoples Climate March in NYC, I had the opportunity to connect with Indigenous leaders from across the U.S. and continue to support causes that preserve our planet for future generations. I also learned first hand the myriad of negative impacts of the oil and gas industry during my time in Colorado.
Since 2014, I have focused my energies into growing my business, Totem Design House. After years of wanting to collaborate on a clothing line with my brothers Haida designs, we finally were in a position to make it happen. Totem Design House has been an all consuming labor of love and has stretched my skills and abilities on so many levels. I have single-handedly designed, produced, marketed and administrated every aspect of the business thus far. As someone who doesn't consider business and capitalism my "life path", I have been driven to expand on my non-profit empowerment work. Even before TDH was profitable in the first year, I was donating to Indigenous youth projects. The development of Copper Legacy is my true passion of uplifting Indigenous people from the aftermath of genocide, colonial oppression and loss of culture. Developing programs and fundraising for projects that focus on cultural and language revitalization, NWC art development, healing/health/wellness, and environment/food sustainability. Totem Design House will continue to donate a percentage of profits to Copper Legacy, to expand programs.
I believe this is a pivotal time in human history to work creatively outside the status-quo culture to support and develop innovative solutions to empower Indigenous people to strengthen communities. I believe that change begins in small movements which catch on and grow to eventually change the cultural norms that have previously disempowered or limited us. I am convinced that now is the time for the wisdom of Indigenous peoples to influence the mainstream towards a truly natural sustainable way of life (ecological harmony, greater food security, local economies and so on).
Wellness & Healing Program Development/Consulting