Nancy E. Oakley is a first nation artist of Mi’kmaw and Wampanoag descent. She was raised in Mashpee, Massachusetts, where her father was Grand Chief of the Wampanoag Nation. Following art school, she moved to her mother’s reserve on Eskasoni First Nation, Nova Scotia to gain a better understanding of her Mi’kmaq heritage.
Nancy has been involved in art her entire life, beginning with traditional dancing and making her own regalia and beadworks as a small child. At the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she studied photography and tried her hand at traditional pottery. After graduating, Nancy moved to Nova Scotia and studied for 1 year at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, taking courses in weaving, jewelry, photography and pottery.
As an artist, Nancy creates culturally significant vessels that imbue her spiritual and traditional knowledge and honour her role as a mother. She creates her pieces by using a wheel or by hand, building larger sculptural vessels that find inspiration in nature and the creation of life. She incorporates traditional practices in her creations, such as stone polishing and smoke firing and later embellishes each piece with traditional Mi’kmaw black ash basketry, intricate beadwork and/or the spiritual element of sweetgrass.