About Samuel Thomas (Curator)
Samuel Thomas is a member of the Lower Cayuga Band of the Iroquois Nation. He lives in Niagara Falls, Ontario. For nearly 40 years, Sam has worked to resurrect beadwork styles from the 18th and 19th centuries. He has recovered several “lost” techniques, and in the process, has garnered international respect for Iroquois beadwork.
Sam’s meticulous style is self-taught, based on his extensive study of museum/collector pieces, books and illustrations. He further developed his technique by training with tanner Juliette Meness-Ferguson, beadworker Faith DuBuc, and Royal Ontario Museum curator Dr. Trudy Nicks.
Sam endeavours to bring people together and break down cultural divisions through sharing knowledge and the arts. He has led collaborative beading workshops involving over 800 people across two continents, as well as cross-cultural initiatives with East African beadwork artists.
Sam’s current projects include Opening the Doors to Dialogue, a reconciliation-focused series of collaborative sessions. Residential school survivors, their descendants and members of the public learn beadwork techniques, which they then apply to doors salvaged from former residential schools. The creative process of these sessions provides a forum for open dialogue, in turn facilitating the healing process for participants.
Sam is deeply dedicated not only to his art, but also to its endurance beyond his own time. As president of the arts service organization Neto Hatinakwe Onkwehowe Native Arts, he works to ensure Aboriginal artists in the Niagara region have access to training, mentorship and professional services.
Sam’s work can be found in the permanent collections of the British Museum, the Canadian Museum of History, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Smithsonian Institution, along with museum, gallery and private collections in the Netherlands, Germany and Australia.