My Coat of Arms
Notes from an Unexpected Heraldry Geek
I've had a lifelong fascination with diverse traditions of symbolism, emblemry, iconography, and heraldry, and the ways in which visual icons can distill and capture the essence of identity, values, and relationships of significance. When I was working on the early stages of my badger book and looking for good images to include, I came across Canadian heraldry, which is connected to European traditions but is far more inclusive and expansive.
This intrigued me enough to explore further, and I discovered that any Canadian citizen could apply for armorial bearings from the Canadian Heraldic Authority. What really captured my attention was that there were numerous Indigenous armigers (bearers of arms), and that they made the tradition fully their own. In short order I decided that we needed some Cherokee representation in the ranks! I've since found that in Canada especially there are many knowledgeable enthusiasts who love symbols and emblems of all types and for whom personal generosity and contributions to community are far more important than arbitrary and exclusivist presumptions of rank or class.
My work with the CHA on the design of my own arms, especially with Bruce Patterson, Deputy Chief Herald of Canada, was a wonderful experience. (Bruce is a true gentleman, and was equally enthusiastic about the project--the beauty and balance of all the elements are in large part due to his keen eye for heraldic design.) The full description of the arms (the blazon) is now online here in the CHA's Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada. See here for more information about the Authority, and here to browse the Register and see some of the other amazing Canada-specific coats of arms.
Click on the thumbnails to the right for a sneak peek at the final artwork that accompanied the letters patent (the grant document itself); the original concept was from Bruce Patterson, with assistance from the heralds of the CHA, the artist is Melissa Aberin, and the calligrapher is Shirley Mangione. I've also included the bookplate I commissioned from Gordon Macpherson, who chose a Eurasian badger (Meles meles) for the crest figure, which is different from the North American badger (Taxidea taxus, or uguna in Cherokee) of the original art. Heraldic artists have a lot of flexibility in representing the symbolism in the letters patent, as it's not the art but the specific symbolism in the textual description that is granted; while my own connection is with the North American variety, I'm very fond of Mr. Macpherson's choice, too.
The amazing artist of my most recently commissioned versions, Kat Moyou, is also a lead designer for the First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program's brochures, magazine, and various other projects, so I had a chance to follow her work long before she created these designs (both with Taxidea as the crest). She's a multi-talented and delightful animator, illustrator, layout artist--highly recommended!