From Tuktoyaktuk to Terrace: Taalrumiq’s Artist Journey of Reclaiming Her Culture and Name
Ever since she was a young girl, Taalrumiq wanted to be an artist but didn’t know that could be a real job. Originally from Tuktoyaktuk in the Inuvialuit Settlement region of the Northwest Territories, her traditional name is Taalrumiq and her English name is Christina Gruben King. She now lives in Terrace, BC, working as a professional artist, fashion designer, digital content creator and speaker.
At first, she got her journeyman red seal in hairstyling, a challenging career as an introvert that helped her have conversations with strangers. From there, she went to the University of Alberta for a Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology and a Bachelor of Education in secondary education. She planned to teach home economics and art, took fashion courses and minored in Fine Art, preparing for an artistic career, but then life happened.
Pursuing her education, Taalrumiq left her home community and met her British Columbian husband. They moved to be close to his family, living in the lower mainland, Northern BC, the Northwest Territories, before settling in Terrace. She’s had to find her place professionally, too, over the years.
Getting married and having a big family including kids with health challenges and juggling childcare meant Taalrumiq paused her career to raise her family. She kept sewing, learning and experimenting with new techniques to keep her skills up. During the pandemic, she started posting her creations on a Facebook page dedicated to her new fashion venture using her traditional name. This was a turning point for Taalrumiq.
“I was reclaiming my identity by taking my traditional name and really owning it, being proud of it, which was something that I never always felt, asking people please refer to me as Taalrumiq in my professional art and design,” she recalls. She felt it was the perfect time to bring her work forward, with the world becoming more aware and appreciative of Indigenous art and fashion.
Cheering her on as she pursues her passion, Taalrumiq’s family has been very supportive, even as she has struggled with self-confidence. Her five children encourage her and affirm her as an artist, helping her along in her journey on days she doesn’t believe in herself as much as they do.
With all she’s accomplished, she has advice for Indigenous youth considering leaving home to follow their dreams. Staying connected on social media and through video chats can help, opportunities she wishes she had when she was struggling with lonely nights and wrestling with just giving up and going home. In the end, she’s glad she persevered and hopes youth chasing their passions will do the same.
“Just have the courage. Just step outside of your comfort zone. It's going to be uncomfortable. It's going to be a bit scary. But that's where the growth and opportunities happen. If you take that chance on yourself, you have nothing to lose. The worst case scenario is that you will have experienced something new and you're gonna learn from those experiences,” she urges.
At school and work, Taalrumiq struggled with being from a different culture. “Being a visibly Indigenous person in the South is not always easy. There are different micro-aggressions that you have to deal with that I've never had to deal with growing up,” she reflects. None of her studies connected with her culture or values and she was left feeling lonely.
Along the way, she learned to take care of herself with sleep, nutrition, balancing social life and working towards her dreams. “The way I looked at it is every decision I make from as soon as I wake up to when I go to bed, every decision is going to bring me toward my goal or away from my goal. That's what helped me to make healthy choices for myself,” she recalls.
Learning to make jewelry had a learning curve too, figuring out the right tools, supplies and materials, distinguishing quality and experimenting with what worked. She would make things for herself and see how they held up and have family members test things. At markets, she would gather customer feedback to inform her future work.
“When I started, I thought, ‘Well, I'm not a business. I'm just creating and sharing art,” Taalrumiq remembers. The leader of an Indigenous women’s entrepreneurship program shared a different perspective, explaining that she was running a business but just didn’t know it yet. With no business education, Taalrumiq took any courses she could find online to help her grow. She was accepted into the TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators Program and learned even more.
To maintain her mental health, Taalrumiq needs quiet time and rest, spending time with her children and doing things offline like playing board games and enjoying her favourite snacks. When she needs inspiration, she thinks about the challenges her ancestors faced, raising children in small homes without electricity, a furnace, running water while tanning furs and creating traditional clothing. Her community, elders and people also inspire her. “[It] really gives me a lot of hope and strength to know that we come from such a rich culture with so much talent and all these amazing ancestral skills. I'm tapping into that to create my own work that I'm able to make a living off of and that's what keeps me going,” she beams. Spending time in nature and admiring its beauty gives her a boost of motivation, too.
In closing, she wants to share words of hope with Indigenous youth. “I want to tell our youth that if nobody's told you this before, you are amazing, you're intelligent, you have the skills inside. You can do anything you want to do. You don't need anyone's permission to start working toward whatever goal it is, you have all the decisions you face on a daily basis. Think about what's going to bring you toward your goals. If nobody's told you this, I believe in you. I know you can do it, and I'm proud of you.”
As a young girl, Taalrumiq didn’t know being an artist could be a real job. From Tuktoyaktuk to Terrace, she found her way as a designer, speaker, content creator and mom. Encouraged by her children, ancestors and community, she’s learned it takes a village to raise an artist and that she can find her village wherever she goes. More than a profession, she’s found a way of life and living that’s artistry in motion.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.