Inside the world and journey of a local Thunder Bay Anishnawbe painter: Rod Ostamas

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Rod Ostamus is a local artist
Rod Ostamus is a local artist
Rod Ostamus is a local artist
Rod Ostamus is a local artist

THUNDER BAY – Rod Ostamas is a very relaxed gentleman. A very patient person as well, from what I have known of him, and these are two attributes that contribute to his success as a local Thunder Bay Anishnawbe painter who has delighted so many people with his talent and skill.

Rod, who is a Eabametoong First Nation band member, relates that he started drawing at the age of eight. Although he never took art classes in his life, he seemed to have a knack for drawing. He started out drawing “little skidoos,” cars and trucks, and other examples of life on the First Nation such as houses.

Rod continued to develop his natural talent for drawing. He soon attended St. Patrick’s High School in Thunder Bay, as so many other First Nation youth do, due to the fact that they must relocate for Ontario secondary school courses.

©2014 Rod Ostamus
©2014 Rod Ostamus

In 2006, at the age of 30, Rod started painting. “I had friends who were artists, and I just liked the way that they did their work, their animals.”

When asked why he ended up painting mostly animals as his brilliant subject material, Rod responded: “I just like doing animals; they are what I like doing.”

Rod clearly enjoys a connection to wolves, moose, eagles, ravens, and loons. The clear sharp lines of his work and deep rich colours provide a soothing sense of nature: “Maybe it’s just the style of the loons. I probably sell more of those than any other animal.”

The City of Thunder Bay can be proud of the fact that we have a homegrown talent from Eabametoong First Nation living and working among us. Rod’s calm demeanor conveys a sense of his mastery over himself and his life, as well as his discipline towards his work: “People expect to hear negativity in the news [about Natives]. They are sometimes watching the news thinking, ‘what will happen now?’ It can be depressing.”

Rod uses his art to combat this: “Personally, because I do dialysis for kidney failure, I use art as therapy. I could have been a drunk, drinking. Instead, I sit at home and do paintings. It keeps me grounded.”

Grounded indeed. Rod has one foot here in Thunder Bay, while the other is in his paintings, on the water with the moose, in the skies with the eagles, and in front of the moon with the wolves of Eabametoong.

Peter Rasevych

Rod Ostamus ©2014
Rod Ostamus ©2014
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Peter Rasevych is a Ginoogaming First Nation band member who also has family roots in Long Lake #58 First Nation, as well as Fort William First Nation. He is an avid trapper, fisherman, and hunter on his family’s traditional territory near Longlac, in northwestern Ontario. He is also a fully licensed children’s hockey, soccer, and lacrosse coach. He was born in Toronto, Ontario and was raised there as well as in Montreal, Quebec. As a youth, Peter attended high school in the Town of Pickering (near Toronto) as well as at Riverdale High School (in Montreal). He graduated from John Abbott College (a CEGEP in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec) with a DEC (Diploma D’Etudes Collegiales) in Social Sciences after studying there from 1989-91. He attained Honour Roll status for three of his four semesters there. He was then awarded with a Bachelor of Arts Degree (BA in English) from McGill University (Montreal) in 1994, after three years of study there. After travelling across Canada and living and working in the bush, he later attended Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, where he graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Arts (HBA in English) in 1998, as well as a Master’s Degree (MA in English) in 2001, where he completed a thesis which was published by the National Library of Canada. Peter’s research focus on traditional First Nations spiritual values, beliefs and culture led him to pursue a PhD in Natural Resources Management at Lakehead University from 2009-12. His research was centred on traditional Anishnawbe spiritual knowledge as it relates to the land, water, and animals. He has also worked for many years in First Nations community development, education, and human and social development at the local band office level on Ginoogaming First Nation, as well as at the tribal council level (Matawa First Nations), and also at the provincial territorial level (OSHKI, for Nishnawbe-Aski Nation). He has taught post-secondary courses for Confederation College (Negahneewin College) in Thunder Bay, in addition to instructing for courses at Lakehead University (Indigenous Learning, English, and Social Work). In addition to articles, his writing interests include research reports, essays, and creative outlets such as short stories, poetry, songs, and short novels. His interests include traditional Anishnawbe spirituality, and camping/living out in the bush as he has done with family since the age of 4.