Sonia Burke-Smith is a multi-disciplinary Artist, Artist mentor and Educator located in Fort McMurray Alberta. Sonia has been connecting curriculum with Art Education for over a decade in the region bringing Youth, Elders and Indigenous Cultural Knowledge together through numerous projects such as Learning through the Arts with the Royal Conservatory of Music, The Boreal Artist Institute, The Nistawoyou Association Friendship Centre and The Rainbow Warrior Creation Studio.
As a survivor of numerous natural disasters (most recently the 2016 Wildfire in Fort McMurray and the flood in 2020), Sonia has lived experience she has built into projects and programming. With deep reverence for and consultation with Elders, she believes that traditional indigenous knowledge, values and culture are, in themselves, important tools to understanding and recovering from disasters. Further, Burke-smith believes that Indigenous knowledge must be valued and widely disseminated and to that end, she developed programming with elders: “The Art of Resiliency” to transform a post traumatic experience into post traumatic growth. “The Art of Resiliency” incorporates traditional healing circles, land based teachings, ceremony, and culminated with public art installations featuring over 500 students. The Art of Resiliency won two awards; a Buffy from Wood Buffalo Arts Council for Best Community Collaboration Project for The Forever Forest and a second from the Fort McMurray Public School District for Community Partner of the year for the 7 Teachings Mural Project.
Sonia shared how she used the indigenous teachings of the medicine wheel, connecting the circle of living things and her experience of post traumatic growth. This is the first time that Sonia has shared her experience to such depth; she believes it is important for the youth to learn and share from what she went through.