Allan Loft Connects Past to Present in Aboriginal Heritage

This article was originally published in Illuminessence, November 23, 2013.

The circle of life is Allan Loft’s guiding principle and approach to humanity. Formerly a photographer and web designer, Loft holds a holistic perspective to spread awareness and understanding of Aboriginal culture in Hamilton.

To connect the aboriginal culture to the past, Loft represented the Native Indian and Inuit Photographer’s Association (NIIPA) to put together two photo exhibitions comprising of 24 photos in total depicting native perspectives on homelessness in 1994 and 1996. Titled Restoring the Connection and Maintaining the Connection, both exhibitions were displayed at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Workers Art and Heritage, and Pow wow events in the city.

“At that time, we decided that there was a whole lot of aboriginal people in the community who were in fact, homeless,” said Loft, who is of Mohawk descent and grew up in the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford.

“But then it goes further than that because with your mental, physical and emotional well-being, homelessness is not just physical…you can be homeless mentally, you can be homeless spiritually, and you can be homeless emotionally,” he said.

PRESERVING ABORIGINAL CULTURE AND HERITAGE

Believing that all things are interconnected, Loft works hard to instill a sense of pride and self-empowerment in aboriginal culture and heritage. With funding from the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre, he was hired to form the Healthy Aboriginal Men’s Circle in 1995. The group, which once consisted of 15 members, would represent the aboriginal community to attend events, showcase the culture and also do presentations about aboriginal history and traditions to various organizations.

While funding has ceased for the group, Loft continues to share aboriginal culture and teachings on an ad-hoc basis. He has volunteered as an Aboriginal Cultural Spiritual Advisor and Facilitator (Mohawk) for the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion. For 12 years, Loft sat on the Board of Directors of the Sacajawea Non-profit Housing, which maintains, refers and provides housing to low-to-moderate income native families.

As a speaker and cultural consultant, Loft had sat on the City of Hamilton Aboriginal Advisory Committee and the now defunct Community Arts Ontario, whose mandate was to distribute funds for aboriginal artists and crafts in Northern and Southern Ontario.

Despite his extensive experience and involvements, Loft is mindful and maintains that he can only speak from his own perspectives as a male aboriginal.

“I am an individual and I have my own thoughts on different subjects. I don’t represent the Six Nations per se. I can only speak for what I know and not representing everyone else,” he insists.

CREATING THE “ABORIGINAL COMPONENT”

In attempt to spread the word about aboriginal culture and teachings, Loft goes live on CFMU 93.3 for his weekly radio show, titled The Aboriginal Component. Every Tuesday between 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., Loft would talk about aboriginal issues, language, contemporary and traditional music.

The idea for the show came to him 10 years ago, when he was a part-time student in Indigenous Studies at McMaster University. He noticed a lack of aboriginal perspective and presence in the university.

So when a spot for a radio show opened up, he knew that it was an opportunity to share his heritage.

“I figure that it doesn’t matter that how many are going there [the university], our presence need to be there all the time,” he said.

A “WHOLISTIC” WAY OF LIVING

In his own words, Loft sums up what he finds to be most crucial in life.

In the most basic concept in our people is the community, that everyone has something to give to the community. The women, intuitively, they know everything to keep the life cycle. The idea and concept of community and concept of communal living is that everybody has something to give to the all. Writers, musicians, counselors…they all bring something to the table. Everybody is equal.