“It’s tiny, and it’s powerful,” says Mohawk Haudenosaunee artist and musician David Maracle of his Eagle POD Gallery. Housed on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in the Bay of Quinte area of southeastern Ontario, the gallery is about 2.5 hours east of Toronto and 3.5 hours southwest of Montreal. At just 240 square feet, it’s an incredible treasure trove of Maracle’s work, which is found in private collections and galleries around the world. He’s well-known for his carvings that incorporate traditional teachings and stories as well as his musical compositions for Iroquoian and Celtic flute, hand drums, and other percussion instruments.
Building on an idea: a micro gallery for art
Eagle POD Gallery opened in 2020. “It was a seed in my mind that needed to be watered, and we just decided it was the best time to do it,” says Maracle. He elected to work with Algonquin Pod Company, the same suppliers of the tiny curved cabins that serve as accommodations for the nearby glamping-style Lil Crow Cabin & Pods that Maracle and his wife KimberLee also own and operate. The gallery’s long, rounded shape was a thoughtful choice. “It just felt so nice, because of the roundness of it. And there's no corners to get stuck into. It looked kind of like our longhouse,” says Maracle, referring to the traditional Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) structure. “I wanted that shape of a dome, almost like a sweat lodge. There's just so much more meaning to having it this way. I wanted people to feel the uniqueness just looking at the building before they even walked in.”
Visitors entering the gallery will find an inviting, colourful space that offers something for all the senses. “It tells stories the minute you walk in the door,” says Maracle. “I want people to recognize and realize that these things are something we build on in our time of need. Even when we get stuck when we’re working on art, we stop, take a break and we either have a traditional tea or burn medicine and ask for thoughts. It’s all these good things, you know, and I teach these things out in the gallery.”
Maracle’s works in stone, bone, and wood are on display
Eagle POD Gallery offers a rare chance to see the remarkable details in Maracle’s completed stone, bone, and wood carvings up close, and to talk to the artist about his process and his work. He does his carving just a stone’s throw away from the gallery and he is currently working on a commissioned sculpture for the United Nations, about the ongoing discovery of child graves at residential school sites across Canada.
“People don't send me a picture or tell me what they want. They give me the theme of what they’re thinking they would like to have. And then they let me use my own mind and imagination to create… [I] have these stories all in my mind and just let the stone dictate and see what stone will lend itself well to the story—the shape, the colour, the size.”
Cedar flutes and artisanal tools
Music is part of the gallery experience too, as you listen to Maracle’s award-winning musical compilations over the sound system.
He also has a small area set aside with instruments that he can demonstrate for interested visitors. Maracle is perhaps best known for his use of oval-shaped Iroquoian “love flutes” that he crafts out of cedar.
Recently, Maracle has turned his attention to jewelry-making, creating and selling pieces made from copper, stone, and beads. The gallery also carries a small selection of beadwork by local Indigenous artisans. Maracle is also revisiting some of his past projects, with the goal of adding a line of traditional weapons and tools to Eagle POD Gallery. “When I first started out when I was 16, I was doing weapons and tools used by Indigenous people many years ago,” he says. These traditional tools caught the eye of buyers because they were unlike anything available at the time, he noted. Most tools are made with non-traditional materials like plastic beads and rubber. “Authenticity was my greatest thing I had going. I was using real feathers and real wooden beads and real wood. That's what really inspired me to stay in this theme in my life.”
An artist’s retreat and public gallery
Eagle POD Gallery is proving to be an important part of Maracle’s artistic journey. “I’m glad I made the move, because it’s actually allowing me now to get very creative; to set it up exactly the way I need things to look in there,” he says. “It means having a retreat for myself as an artist, to be able to have something to share with people…I take a lot of teachings from the Elders and the stories, and intertwine these things into my art. So it gives me the ability to be able to tell our stories and our history through these creations.”