FREQUENCIES is a digital audio & visual project based on a Deer Toe Rattle. Collected in 1902, the Rattle is made from Wood, Hide & Deer Claws, and is listed as a Dance Rattle, or Medicine Man’s Shaker. It can be traced to the collection of Dr. Oronhyateka; a Mohawk physician and scholar, from Six Nations of the Grand River. One of the first Indigenous physicians in North America, Dr. Oronhyateka established the Historical Rooms & Library (which once stood in downtown Toronto) during his tenure as the Supreme Chief Ranger of the Independent Order of Foresters. Oronhyateka’s Historical Rooms housed local Indigenous and World Artifacts.

FREQUENCIES is rooted in the initial act of “tuning in” (think adjusting a dial across radio airwaves or flipping through television stations). It explores the notion that while many indigenous artifacts lay dormant, they continue to resonate – and are perhaps still capable of transmitting information/knowledge/ideas. I see this project as an activation or call to reactivation. It is an exploration of the ways we engage with our cultural past through story, sight, motion and sound. ‘Frequencies’ examines devices of communication, knowledge, and the transmission of ideas. How DID & DOES this object function? And how would it communicate within a mechanized world?

As this project has grown, it has begun to occupy more 3 dimensional landscapes that re-imagine the rattle, its movements & transmissions.

‘Frequencies’ is about Transference. Traversing Technological Territories. Adaptation.

About Shawn Johnston

Shawn Johnston is an Indigenous Digital Media artist and recent graduate of OCAD University (Bachelor of Fine Arts in Integrated Media). Prior to his studies at OCAD University, Shawn obtained a degree in Fashion Design (in partnership with the International Academy of Merchandising & Design, and the Native Skills Centre, Toronto), where he first became interested in the exploration of art, technology, human interaction, the body and its physicality.

Shawn Johnston ronkwehón:we, Digital Media raráhstha’ tánon’ OCAD Tsi Ionterihwaienstahkhwa’kó:wa tehotohétston (Intergrated Media roteweiénston ne Bachelor of Fine Arts nón:we). Kanáthen ne Aterónto thoió’te’, thia’tehá:ti tehotiienawà:kon ne Shawn. Ohén:ton tsi niió:re OCAD Tsi Ionterihwaienstahkhwa’kó:wa roterihwaiensta’nónhne, Fashion Design 

wahatéweienste’ (International Academy of Merchandising & Design, tánon’ the Native Skills Centre, Aterónto nón:we tehotohétston). Tho shontakahá:wi taho’nikonhratihéntho’ ne karáhston (art), asé’stsi iontstha’shòn:’a (technology), oh ní:ioht tsi onkwehshòn:’a tehatihtháhrha’, ón:kwe oieròn:ta tánon’ tsi niieia’tò:ten.

ᔕᐣ ᒐᐣᐢᑕ ᐊᐗ ᐃᓂᓂᐤ ᑕᑲᐢᑌᐸᓂᒋᑫᐎᓇ ᑲ ᐅᔑᑕᐟ ᐃᑕᐳ ᒣᑾᐨ ᓀᐢᑕ ᐊᓄᐡᒋᑫᐣ ᑭᑭᔑᑕᐤ OCAD ᒧᐗᐨ ᑲ ᐃᐡᐸᐠ ᑭᐢᑭᓄᐦᐊᒪᑐᐌᐎᑲᒥᑯᐦᐠ (ᑲᐡᑲᐦᐅᐌᐎᐣ ᑲ ᑕᐸᓯᓇᐦᐃᑲᓄᐗᐠ ᑲ ᒪᒧᓂᑲᑌᑭ ᑕᑲᐢᑌᐸᓂᒋᑫᐎᐣ) ᔕᐣ ᒣᑾᐨ ᐎᒐᐦᐁᐤ ᐊᓇᑭ ᐊᐌᓂᑲᓇᐠ ᐱᒉ ᑐᕈᐣᑐ᙮ ᑄᒧᔐ ᑲᑭ ᑭᐢᑭᓄᐦᐊᒪᓱᐟ ᐊᐣᑕ OCAD ᑭᐢᑭᓄᐦᐊᒪᑐᐌᐎᒥᑯᐦᐠ, ᔕᐣ ᑭᑭᔑᑕᐤ ᓀᐢᑕ ᐊᔭᐤ ᑲᐡᑲᐦᐅᐎᐣ ᐗᔭᓂᒋᑲᓇᐣ ᐅᔑᒋᑫᐎᐣ (ᒪᒧ ᐎᒐᐦᐃᑐᐗᐠ ᒥᓱᐌ ᐊᐢᑭᐦᐠ ᑭᐢᑭᓂᐦᐊᒪᓯᐎᐣ ᑲ ᐅᔑᑕᒋᐠ ᑫᑾᓇ ᓀᐢᑕ ᑕᐸᓯᓇᐦᐃᑫᐎᓇ, ᓀᐢᑕ ᒪᑲ ᐃᓂᓂᐎ ᑲ, ᑐᕈᐣᑐ) ᐁᑯ ᐊᐣᑕ ᐅᐡᑲᐨ ᐁᑭ ᓇᑐ ᑭᐢᑫᓂᑕᐠ ᑕᐸᓯᓇᐦᐃᑫᐎᓇ, ᐌᒥᐢᑎᑯ ᑯᓱᐗᐸᒋᑫᐎᓇ, ᐃᓂᓂᐎ ᐱᓯᑫᓂᒋᑫᐎᐣ, ᑲᑭᓄ ᐁ ᒥᔪ ᒪᑲ ᒥᓱᐌ ᑲ ᐃᔑᓇᑾᑭ.

Shaan Chanstan awa ininiw takastêpanichikêwina ka oshitat itapo mêkwach nêsta anooshchikên kikishataw OCAD mowach ka ishpak kiskinohamatowêwikamikohk (Kashkahowêwin ka tapasinahikanowak ka mamonikatêki takastêpanichikêwin) Shaan mêkwach wichahêw anaki awênikan pichê Toronto. pwamoshê kaki kiskinohamasot anta OCAD kiskinohamatowêwikamikohk, Shaan kikishitaw nêsta ayaw kashkahowin wayanichikana oshichikêwin (mamo wichahitowak misowê askihk kiskinohamasiwin ka oshitachik kêkwana nêsta tapasinahikêwina, nêsta maka ininiwi kashkahowikamik, Toronto) êko anta oshkach êki nato kiskênitak tapasinahikêwina, wêmistikosho kosowapachikêwina, ininiwi pisikênichikêwin, kakino ê miyo êko maka misowê ka ishinakwaki.

About the Original Artifact

Deer Claw Rattle

Rattle // hide, deer dewclaws // 32.5 x 6 cm // Oronhyatekha Collection

Gift of the Independent Order of Foresters

About the Process

Choosing the rattle: I knew that I wanted to create an audio piece, so I tried to focus on objects that produced sound. I was initially thinking of working with drums, but I found that I kept gravitating back to the rattle. I was thinking about these items stored away from sight/touch/sound etc. and

it occurred to me that perhaps things continually emit a pulse that transmits their knowledge/ideas, and it is up to us to tune into their frequencies. I feel like during my time in the ROM archives, I activated something within both the object and myself that warranted exploration.