Working with metals is in Wesley George Havill’s blood. The Ojibway, Eagle Clan artist from Batchewana First Nation in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario had already taken a blacksmithing course when he learned that his grandfather was a blacksmith in the mines of Wawa, Ontario.
Copper, in particular, is of great significance to Indigenous Peoples. Earth's largest and purest copper deposits are found around North America's Great Lakes and Indigenous Peoples were among the first cultures to mine it producing tools, art, and more—but the power of the material goes even deeper.
“Copper has a lot of healing properties and provides protection,” says Wes. “If you go up north to a graveyard, you'll see pennies all over all the ancestors in the cemeteries to protect them.”
Wes’ jewelry practice began in 2015 after moving from woodworking to moose antler carving and then to copper. Today, Wes and his wife Lori wear a medicine bag of copper, gifted to them by Wes’ chief and mined from Lake Superior.
Some consider Wes’ work akin to painting. His use of heat and fire to treat the sacred metal brings out the gorgeous colours copper holds.
For MedicAlert’s Designer Collection, Wes decided on one of Lori’s most favourite designs from within his collection of copper creations – the Miskwaabik Miigwan, or copper feather.
Wes’ distinct feather shape is layered with meaning. “I'm Eagle Clan. The Eagle (Migizi) is one of our most revered and respected Beings in Creation. These beautiful birds represent our link to our Creator (Gchi Manidoo) and our connection to all that is Spiritual for our people. It is taught that when we lay our tobacco (sema) the Eagle (Migizi) comes down to gather our prayers and then will soar high up into Ishpeming (Above) to bring them to Creator (Gchi Manidoo).”
Strung with deer leather from the Laurentian mountains, the Miskwaabik Miigwan ensures the wearer benefits from the healing properties of the material.
Wes says he’s honoured to be able to bring the healing properties of copper to those who need it most. “There's this sense of pride when you're able to wear a piece that makes you feel good. You look good, you look confident, you're representing your family, your community—but you're also healing and protecting yourself.”