Ekti's Biography - Full version

Margaret Cardinal was raised in a traditional Northern Plains Cree culture. Originally from Saddle Lake First Nations in northeastern Alberta. Her early years were spent mostly out-of-doors often nomadically following seasonable food gathering, hunting and fishing activities.

Her formal education began at age 6 at an Indian Residential School. In high school she began demonstrating her unique talents and abilities by receiving honors in art and clothing design. The Tailor Technician program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology was a natural choice to further her formal education in this area.

Aboriginal clothing, art and design is learned more in the informal arena and Margaret has pursued countless opportunities in this area. She has studied under her own parents, aunts, uncles and various elders in her community. Her learning in this area is continuous and well-grounded and Northern Plains Cree, a language she also speaks.

Margaret has been teaching the Aboriginal Clothing and Design program at Northern Lakes College between 1987 to 2008 years. She has developed and taught courses in a wide variety of aboriginal traditional skills such as horse hair wrapping, quill work, fish scale art, caribou hair tufting, various forms of bead work, moccasin making, etc. Fish scale art is a technique locally developed by a Grouard Elder. Margaret trained under her and further developed this technique through practice and experimentation. A major assignment for students in this program is to develop a complete outfit based on a chosen North American aboriginal group. Margaret provides key information and research sources through contacts and visits to museums and a broad knowledge of literature in this area.

Margaret is a lifelong learner and has taken surface design and fiber arts short course at Red Deer College.

Frequently asked to do workshops and teach Margaret's has developed a large repertoire of activities. She has made dolls and played traditional Cree games with young people, taught sewing to aboriginal women at Aurora College in the Northwest Territories and done shield making with women's groups. Her ability to tailor the activity and combine it with traditional aboriginal teaching is unique.

The North Country Fair (a local folk festival for about 6,000 people) has been colored by Margaret's banners and displays as have various other outlets. She has consulted to museums and historical villages regarding displays on traditional Cree lifestyles. Her artistic eye combined with cultural knowledge helps her create displays that are both beautiful and meaningful.

Margaret has a business making teepees, capotes, fiber arts, and one-of-a-kind traditional Cree dolls. Her dolls won a contest with:

1st prize, Fairview Community Agricultural Fair -1985

2 ND prize, Alberta Ballet Company's "Coppelia" doll dressing competition - 1985

Honorable mention in the province-wide Alberta Crafts Council - aboriginal and unique doll category. 1986

                1 St prize, New Product Category, Alberta Native Arts and Crafts Society-1989

The Dolls have been displayed at Jubilee Auditoriums, the Nickel Arts Museum, the Office of Minister of Culture, the Westin Hotel in Edmonton, the Provincial Museum of Alberta and at many schools and social functions

Margaret was one of the 120 Albertans invited to the Smithsonian’s 40th annual Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. on July of 2006.

Facilitated in the youth venue of the “Iyiniwak Traditional Healing & Medicines Gatherings 2006, 2007 and 2008 in Saddle Lake, Alberta. Offering sessions on Talking Sticks, mini-sweet grass basket making, beaded turtle pouch & it’s teachings, and basic bead work: daisy chain bracelet.

As one of the Elders invited to participate in the Elders Forum: University of Alberta, Faculties of Education, Arts, & Native Studies, Tenth Annual Canadian Indigenous Language and Literacy Development Institute 2009.

A well known Tipi and Tent Maker, is also a teacher of both disciplines at communities such as Saddle Lake, Atikameg, Loon River, and Cadotte Lake, Alberta all in the spring & summer of 2010. Margaret, also teaches her craft when requested.

Margaret is a grandmother and is still known to spend summers living under canvas.

Kamahmahkos : (Little butterfly)                                 @ Mary Hill, Box #142, Joussard, Alberta , T0G 1J0

Artists Statement

The smell of smoke-tanned moose, elk, and deer hides my mother made. 
The beautiful bead work she did. The dolls my father made for me, that included stories. These are my inspirations.
Keep the items simple, enjoy the beads, embellish the moments when working with rare materials in an almost lost art form.
Stuffing my dolls, amulets and pouches with sweet grass and sage is a prayer in itself.
Margaret L Cardinal 


My late father made me my first dolls and miniatures in the late fifties. I was the only girl in the family for about ten years so the dolls they both made came to me. My dolls we wrapped in moss bags and rags. What I now call the little people dolls never had any faces or loose moccasins. The wooden miniatures were made of saskatoon wood and left over hide pieces that my parents did not need.

img049I starting making dolls in the late eighties, as a teaching tool, in schools and at local cultural events. I entered a contest for unique dolls and won 2nd prize in the Alberta Ballet Company's "Coppelia" doll dressing 
competition in 1985. This opened a whole new world for me and my dolls.

The dolls themselves were made of smoke-tanned moosehide bodies with buckskin and/or printed cotton attire. Each doll is unique in itʼs regalia. There are three different sizes: 40 cm tall, 20 cm, 13 cm. I like to give each of the dolls Cree names. A few come in pairs, the odd one will have a baby in tow.

I feel there is much more to the production of the dolls then mere economics. Making them, for me, demonstrates my sense of pride in my Cree heritage and commitment to preserving the history and culture of the Plains Cree for future generations.