Mi’kmaw artist Marcus Gosse has had his artwork featured on the Canadian Mint’s newest limited-edition coin. The one-ounce pure silver coin which portrays the Mi’kmaq Creation Story, was released today. Alison Muise, Communications Manager for the Band, reached out to Marcus today to talk about the project.
AM: Well, congratulations to you today! How are you feeling?
MG: I’m pretty happy it was released and it’s out. CBC just came to my house to do a story, NTV did a story, and I’m going live with Martin Jones on CBC radio at 3:00. It’s a big day.
AM: And now your First Nation is calling you to talk about it too. (laughter)
MG: Yes, that’s right.
AM: How did you end up with your artwork featured on a coin, Marcus? How did all of this come about?
MG: I was at the Stephenville Mall having a look around when the Canadian Mint contacted me and said Marcus, we were wondering if you’d be interested in designing a coin for us around the Mi’kmaw Creation Story.
AM: They just called you up?
MG: Yes, they said they found me on LinkedIn! They called and said they were looking for a Mi’kmaw artist to depict the Mi’kmaq Creation Story. They basically said we looked at your art, we found your website and looked at the galleries and the art that represents you. We’ve seen all your stuff. We like your style and use of design… they mentioned that they really liked my depiction of the Mi’kmaw star… and then they said, we want you to design this coin.
I was so honoured. There are a lot of Mi’kmaq artists out there. To represent Mi’kmaq with a design on this coin, I’m honoured and humbled. I can’t believe they contacted me. This is my highest achievement to date. When they approached me, it was like a lottery ticket. Of course I said yes.
AM: so you just accepted it on the spot hey? Incredible. After you got off the phone, did you reach out to anyone? Was there an Elder that you contacted to guide you with this project?
MG: Oh yes, an Elder was very involved in the coins’ design and the way everything was explained with the release of the coin itself. The Mint consulted Elder Stephen Augustine. He was I guess the Elder advisor and reviewer. The artistic design is based on his version of the Mi’kmaq Creation Story.
AM: That’s amazing. What a perfect person to have involved.
MG: Yes, he reviewed and made suggestions throughout the design process. Once we got to the finalization stages of the project, he joined the team on video calls to actually talk about it. I shared my interpretation of the Mi’kmaq Creation Story with him and how I came to my design. He understood where I was coming from and made suggestions to bring more focus to the heart of the story.
AM: Wonderful. I wish I could talk to him and see what he has to say about it!
MG: There’s a quote from him on the website. He’s proud of the coin and sharing the story.
Stephen Augustine is Hereditary Chief on the Mi’kmaq Grand Council and Executive Director, Donald Marshall Institute At Cape Breton University. Here’s what he had to say,
“The minting of a coin honouring the Mi’kmaq Creation Story is truly a recognition of one of Canada’s First Nations’ oral history and oral tradition of storytelling explaining the creation of our Mi’kmaq world. The Mi’kmaq Creation Story has been passed down through the family of Hereditary Chief Stephen J. Augustine whose ancestor, Chief Michael Augustine of the Richibucto Tribe, signed a Treaty of Peace and Friendship on March 10, 1760 in Halifax. The principles and ethical protocols in the Mi’kmaq Creation Story are integral to the peace and friendship treaty-making process as well as Mi’kmaq spiritual ceremonies.”
AM: Other than the media, who have you been hearing from? The Mi’kmaq community must be very excited about this.
MG: Galleries that represent me and carry my artwork have all reached out… Everyone is congratulating me. I’m proud to give back to the community, be a part of visual storytelling, trying to understand the art and share the beauty of it as opposed to just selling art. It’s good to show my community and cultural connection.
AM: I know you aren’t the first Indigenous artist to have their artwork featured on a coin, but are you the first Mi’kmaw person?
MG: I’m the first Mi’kmaw person from Newfoundland. I know Allan Syliboy and Gerald Gloade from Millbrook First Nation have done coins as well and there could be others. But I’m the first from Newfoundland.
AM: Well congratulations once again Marcus. I’ll share a story on this and the link for folks to buy the coin. Do you think it will sell out fast?
MG: There are only 5500 of these coins. The Mint said they are expecting a very fast sell-out of this coin. Indigenous coins don’t come along very often. I think they mentioned the last one selling out in a week.
AM: Well, you can bet Qalipu First Nation will have some in our shopping cart before this day is done. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today, Marcus. I’m looking forward to seeing the coin in person.
MG: Thank you and thanks for all the support in the newsletter and the website and everything. I really appreciate it.
AM: We’re proud of you. I’m happy to share. Take care.
Don’t miss your chance to purchase this beautiful new coin! Click here for details: https://www.mint.ca/en/shop/coins/2023/1-oz-pure-silver-coin-generations-mikmaq-creation-story