Rebekah Stevens finds healing through traditional Indigenous beadwork

The Métis SFU student creates beautiful handmade earrings

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Collage featuring Rebekah, a Métis woman, and a colourful array of her beadwork earrings against a sage green background
Find more of Stevens’ work on Instagram @beksbeads. PHOTO: Courtesy of Rebekah Stevens

By: Yelin Gemma Lee, News Writer

The relationship between an artist and their art is what makes their work reach people in ways words can’t identify. For Rebekah Stevens, the Indigenous studies and linguistics student behind @beksbeads on Instagram, this relationship is rooted in personal healing and affirmation of identity. In an interview with The Peak, Stevens shared more about her artistic process.

Stevens first learned to bead from an Indigenous elder in her hometown at age 10. After a hiatus, she learned again through friends and staff at SFU’s Indigenous Student Centre in 2019. Since she rediscovered her passion for beading, Stevens has consistently practiced her craft. Her Instagram account has now garnered the attention of over 7,000 followers. Many of the earrings she posts for sale are sold within a few hours. 

“I started my Instagram account to document my beading journey and didn’t have any intention of selling things. But someone asked to buy a pair I had posted and I realized I could sell them, which made me motivated to learn other stitches and also allowed me to buy more supplies to continue learning more beading techniques,” said Stevens.

Despite a slow learning process, Stevens said it felt natural and peaceful for her to bead: she was able to find connection, healing, and affirmation of her Métis identity through it. “It gave me a reason to go back to Indigenous spaces. Because of beading, I’ve become comfortable with myself as an Indigenous person, and it has also led me to meeting so many wonderful Indigenous peers across all of Turtle Island, that I wouldn’t have otherwise,” Stevens said. “I’ve learned about my culture, the significance and stories that are told through beadwork, language, and so much more.” Beading is a core component of how she stands proudly Métis today. It also taught Stevens that the discomfort she experienced before was an impact of colonization. 

“I often think about the women who came before me who would have beaded as a way of making a living (through trading, gifting), and I feel really connected to them in a weird way. Like all these years later, despite the Canadian agenda of erasing Indigenous cultures, I am here now, beading, and able to bead myself through school,” said Stevens.

Although there was a lot of trial and error, Stevens says this process was formative for her artistic practice. 

“Some things work for some people and not others, and it’s taken me a long time to learn what types of needles, thread, beads, stitches, etc. I like and what works best for me. It has also taken me time to learn that not everything I make needs to be perfect, which is part of the beauty of beadwork,” said Stevens. “When I settle on colours, I kind of just go with what my fingers tell me to do and hope that I like the design. I like beading with no expectations.”

When Stevens beads, she focuses on putting good intentions into her pieces. She isn’t worried about anything else. To honour her peaceful beading practice, she currently doesn’t accept commissions and sells what she makes out of pure creative freedom. 

“I don’t have to think about assignments, my other jobs, or other stressful things in my life when I’m counting beads onto a thread. I have always had anxiety and beading has really helped me deal with my anxiety in healthier ways,” said Stevens. 

Before I made my first order, I asked if it was appropriate for me, a non-Indigenous settler, to wear traditional beadwork earrings. Stevens said as long as you are buying Indigenous-made jewelry from an Indigenous person, this can be a good opportunity for settlers to support decolonization and cultural reclamation. 

Stevens explained wearing beadwork by other Indigenous artists has a lot of meaning to her as well. “It’s like a statement of being proud of who I am. I do it for all our ancestors who couldn’t before.”

Rebekah Stevens’ beadwork can be found on her Instagram page @beksbeads, which is also the best way to contact her about purchases. Each pair of earrings range from $70–$160 depending on style, size, and materials used. Shipping is available worldwide.