Sipi Flamand couldn’t quite believe his eyes.
The chief of Manawan, an Atikamekw community north of Montreal, was at the Olympic Stadium last week to watch Metallica in concert for the very first time.
He grew up listening to the heavy metal band’s music, a source of inspiration for him throughout the years.
So when one of the members of Metallica – bassist Robert Trujillo – walked on stage wearing a medallion handmade by Flamand a decade ago, the Atikamekw chief was stunned.
“I was very surprised, amazed to see on the stage the medallion I made,” Flamand told CityNews. “I told that one day I would see a famous artist wearing one of the medallions that I make. I was surprised and amazed to see that.”
Flamand crafted the beaded medallion in 2013 featuring four Metallica Ms in a ninja star formation. He gifted it to his cousin Danik Létourneau and admittedly “forgot a little bit” about it.
Gifting medallions in the Indigenous community is a way to “connect people,” Flamand explained to CityNews. The gift to his cousin was “a manner to respect him, to respect the group. That’s our custom.”
Well years later, his cousin passed on the respect in a very big, high-profile way.
Létourneau was in the front row at the first of two Metallica concerts at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium Friday as part of the band’s M72 World Tour – the same show attended by Flamand.
At one point in the concert, Trujillo walked up to the crowd and played his bass against the metal divider separating fans from the stage – just inches from Létourneau. That’s when the young Metallica fan removed the medallion he was wearing, offered it to Trujillo and slipped it on the bassist’s neck.
Watching the show from further back at the Olympic Stadium, Flamand was amazed when Trujillo popped up on the giant screen wearing his medallion.
“‘Oh, that’s my medallion,’” recalled Flamand of that very moment. “I was really surprised.”
Metallica ‘famous in First Nation communities’
Videos of the moment and photos of Trujillo, who is of Mexican and Native American descent, wearing the medallion were shared to Metallica’s social media.
“I (saw it) on their Instagram or Facebook,” said Flamand. “And that’s really special.”
Beading has been a long-time hobby for Flamand, who’s crafted medallions, outfits or other regalia. Now that he’s chief, though, he concedes he has less time for the artistic and cultural practice.
“Medallions have a very specific significance for Natives that can represent our identity, our clan, or history,” he said. “And it’s what makes me proud.”
That’s why combining that cultural significance with Metallica – a band that means a lot to so many – was a huge deal for Flamand.
“Metallica is very popular, famous in First Nation communities,” he said. “That’s the first time I was going to see this legendary metal band. But I always listen to their music. Very inspiring music… makes you to think about life.
“A lot of their music I think is very important. And when I was in the show at Montreal, I was able to meet Natives from all from Quebec, for example.”
Second medallion at Sunday concert
Two days later Metallica performed the second Montreal show at the Olympic Stadium and Trujillo was again gifted Indigenous beadwork – this time beaded by Dannys Flamand, another member of Manawan.
She gifted it to her boyfriend, who handed it off to a friend with floor tickets. That’s how it got to Trujillo.
As was the case with Sipi Flamand, Dannys only found out when she saw it on the big screen.
“Oh, I was really happy,” she told CityNews. “I was very surprised to see Trujillo wearing it.
“It was a very powerful moment.”
Dannys’ medallion was also a Metallica logo that took her roughly 36 hours to make.
“I was very proud to see that because it was so hard to make the medallion because it’s hard work… because it takes three days to make the medallion,” she said.
Her connection to Metallica goes beyond simply enjoying their music. She says it helped her get through difficult moments in her life.
“I listened to Metallica when I was a teenager and it helped me so much,” said Dannys.
And as an artist, being able to gift her handmade work to another artist made the whole thing that much more special.
“It’s very important for me because I would like to share my art, my creativity, my independence… I want to share my values, my concerns. It’s important for me.”
Manawan, one of three communities within the Atikamekw Nation, is about 260 kilometres north of Montreal.