December 2015: Zig Misiak 

Photo of Zig Misiak among covers of his published works. 

December’s Featured Artist is Brantford author Zig Misiak, a lifelong learner and [fairly new] writer with a folk-like appeal.

Misiak immigrated to Canada in 1950 as a 3-year old Polish WWII refugee. Within a short time of settling in Brantford, Misiak developed a keen interest in the Six Nations community. He has spent five decades talking to and reading about First Nations history and culture, sharing his knowledge with friends while continuing to learn each day.

In 2008, Misiak was encouraged by friends and family to express what he had learned, and co-authored with Raymond Skye, a Native studies guide called the Six Nations Iroquois Program Teachers Resource Guide; 685 schools currently use the Resource Guide, and he spends much of his time working with schools to help them integrate First Nations content into existing curriculum. Over the years, he has supplemented this Native studies resource with 4 self-published books, and most recently has published Wampum: the story of Shaylyn the Clam, a children’s book.

Misiak makes it very clear in his work, and during public speaking engagements, that he speaks about, but not for, Native people, and respects both oral and written histories. He believes that Native and non-Native people have many commonalities, and that our differences should be respected, learned about, understood, shared, and embraced. “Fear creates unpredictable results,” he says. “I feel it’s through education that we can dissipate fear. I like being a part of this collective healing process.” Misiak’s exceptional knowledge sharing and writing has been recognized with the Shining Star Award, Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Misiak is glad to call Brantford home, and is enjoying being part of rebuilding its potential. Local artists and volunteers inspire him, as they give him hope for his family, his community, and his country. He calls himself a “converted optimist,” crediting the positive, collaborative community that continues to work to better Brantford and the surrounding area. “Brantford has a fantastic history and, not unlike many cities, has peaked and tumbled over the years. Our tumbling has stopped due to the effort of thousands of good people in the community contributing on many levels to many causes.”

Misiak is a lifelong learner, and enjoys meeting new people that trust and challenge each other with a mutually positive goal in mind. His advice to developing artists is: “Take what comes your way each moment, each day, week, month, and year, and squeeze out the best for yourself… This then allows you as a creative person to evolve into the best human and spirit you can be and the arts are your expression of that.

For more information about Zig Misiak, visit his website, Real People’s History, by clicking here to open a new browser window. You can also follow Misiak on Facebook.