FOOTPRINTS COMMEMORATIVE INDIGENOUS ART PROJECT
“The discovery of those unmarked graves on the site of a former residential school is shocking, and incredibly tragic. Our hearts go out to the many families of residential school students and residential school survivors.”
– RDBID Executive Director, Judith Veresuk
To commemorate the individuals found in unmarked graves in Saskatchewan, and to add support to those helping to raise awareness about Canada’s residential school legacy, Regina Downtown and Regina’s Warehouse Business Improvement Districts joined to launch the FOOTPRINTS COMMEMORATIVE INDIGENOUS ART PROJECT.
Nine Indigenous artists from Saskatchewan designed original artwork incorporating children’s footprints, according to each artist’s unique style. These designs were used to place hundreds of footprints in downtown Regina and in the Warehouse District, either as stencils temporarily painted onto sidewalks or as posters hung in vacant storefronts.
This project is focused on honouring, and raising awareness of, the numerous Indigenous children and adults who have walked through Saskatchewan’s residential school system – those who have survived, and those who have not. We hope for continued healing and reconciliation among all our relations in all our communities.
My name is Brii LaPlante, and I am an innovative and spiritually driven Indigenous woman. I am gravitated towards improving the quality of life for our people through the venues of healing through the arts and seeking decolonized ways of care for Indigenous peoples and their families. I aim to do this by first reclaiming art and birth work practices, and base programs around cultural knowledge led by Indigenous peoples, for Indigenous peoples. I find myself in a time where we are so displaced within our own territories. My purpose is to reconnect people to the land, as well as creating safe urban spaces in which we can all organically exist.
My current practice is related to the healing and celebration of Indigenous communities. With my works of art, I look to represent the intersections of life from an Indigenous woman’s perspective. I am undergoing my lifelong journey to solidify my understanding of Indigenous women’s roles in the arts and claiming my own space as a Saulteaux-Cree Artist. Much of my art is centered around the pieces of my identity, exploring the many intersections that I live within. My art is produced with the technical tools and teachings of the urban world, backed with the traditional practices and stories of the culture and what it has taught me. My works are predominantly within the two-dimensional realm, including the stencils made for the commemorative project.
My art represents the spiritual, where we are connected to our ancestral strengths and loved ones. We as Indigenous people are walking on a journey towards healing and enlightenment during our earthly existence. The symbols I chose are representative of our children, life givers, and our prairie communities. My art reflects ceremonial influence which teaches, heals, and connects us all. In respect to the continuing discovery of our children’s graves, I am thankful and humbled to be a part of this project for our hurting and healing families. Our children are our future and are central to our prosperity. These children will be carried with us forever as Indigenous peoples, and as a nation.
Geanna Dunbar is a Cree – Metis mixed media, spoken word artist and entrepreneur from Regina, Saskatchewan. She works in mixed media collage, sculpture, acrylic, street art, chalkboard and window painting, tattooing and her poetry often reflects real life issues and art. With a special interest in sustainable art and interdisciplinary community collaboration, Geanna often sets personal challenges that help her grow and deepen her relationship with her environment and with others.
My work explores many things – the relationships I have with people, situations around me as well as finding my identity. Creating art helps to ground me and expresses who I am. I enjoy and work in many media forms, such as painting, illustration, tattooing, body piercing, fibre arts, mixed media and appreciate using recycled and upcycled materials that people often throw away without second thought. I love to express emotion with unconventional textures, lines and drips. I believe expression is not a coloring book, it is bold and messy – I think that is what life is, creating our own canvas as we grow and leaving room for mistakes, its what gives us and our work character, depth and makes it relatable. With the 751 Footprints Commemorative Art Project I would like to educate people that this is a history that is still effecting present times. Grandparents, parents and siblings are feeling the after affects in their home and well-being to this present day with generations to come. The last school closing in 1996, these acts affect the people you surround yourself with even though they aren’t your personal experiences directly. This visually shows the victims and the demand for accountability.
Tungasugit, Welcome. Brandy Jones is an Inuit artist originally from Williams Lake, British Columbia who now makes her home on Treaty 4 Territory in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. She is inspired by Haida, Salish, Inuit, and Metis art. Her use of abstract mixed mediums challenges the viewer to explore the layers of beauty that lie within her culture.
Brandy’s work represents the unity of all Indigenous nations and forms a unique style of her own. Her work is a celebration of the beauty, success, hardships, and perseverance of Indigenous peoples.
She uses her gifts to educate, inspire and motivate people to explore Indigenous art. Brandy is privileged to work full time as an artist. Brandy’s artwork can be found on her Instagram @BrandyJonesIndigenousArtist or Facebook page – Brandy Jones Indigenous Art.
“What I want my work to represent is the resilience of Indigenous peoples, especially the resilience of the indigenous children that suffered at the former residential schools. I also want them to represent what was stolen from Indigenous families.”
Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway is an inter-disciplinary artist whose main source of inspiration is Tatanga aka Buffalo. She is a fashion and textile designer, visual artist, beader, storyteller and co-founder of the Buffalo People Arts Institute. She is Nakota/Cree/Saulteaux from the White Bear First Nations – signatory to Treaty 4. She has degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Calgary and Mathematics from the First Nations University of Canada. She loves to incorporate mathematics and geometry in her artwork and is inspired by the perfect symmetry in nature. Her mantra envelopes everything Buffalo as it connects her to ancestral memories, the land and is the manifestational glue that keeps her world together.
“My submission is titled, Honouring the children who are returning to the buffalo spirits.
The baby footprints are in orange color, to represent Residential school and their time there. They transform into baby buffalo hooves and their little spirits are transformed into baby buffaloes who rise above. They will be returning to their ancestors including the buffalo spirits. The purple flowers in the lower corner represent the purple prairie crocuses. Elder Maria Linklater, shares a story that when a baby buffalo is born where they drop their belly button a crocus sprouts up.”
BA, (2003); MA, (2006); PhD, (candidate 2006-2008)
Karlie has received a variety of grants and awards, including a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Grant, Saskatchewan Arts Board Indigenous Pathways Initiative Grant and Independent Arts Grant. Her work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions across the country. Karly currently teaches at The Cathedral School of Art in Regina, is Curator at Hague Gallery and is a dedicated Mother of two.
“When I think of all the atrocities of Residential Schools my mind often goes to that initial cutting of the hair – the removal of their beautiful braids (the literal and symbolic severing of culture and spirituality, of family and belief.)
Believing in a world that is more than I see here, I hope that wherever you are now your hair is long and your braids thick – that they are restored and beautiful.
And I want you to know that finally the literal cutting of braids has ended, and that (for many) the process of stopping the symbolic severing of braids has begun. I hope we all heal.
These footprints represent this process – what happened and what’s to come. And their placement denotes the lines they stood in, as they waited for their hair to be cut. And the lines of their final resting place.”
KEVEN ‘POETIK’ WESAQUATE
Kevin, a spoken word poet and visual artist, is currently employed as a Multi-Disciplinary Indigenous Arts Leader at SCYAP. He is also remotely working from his home studio as a ‘Virtual Artist Teacher’ for Northern communities for the Taking IT Global, Connected North Program. Kevin is one of their most valued presenters. He is the founder of the Indigenous Poetry Society and has hopes of building an increasing community of spoken word artists.
“The idea of children trying to make it home from Indian Residential Schools is a common narrative told by Indigenous Elders who have either tried to run away or have known other children who have tried and never returned. These footprints in orange signify that desperation for freedom and willingness to get home along train tracks can be felt by all communities across Turtle Island, and in our hearts, we can only pray that some have made it home. Let this also be a commemoration to those who never made it home.”
Kevin has represented Saskatoon for Tonight Its Poetry at the Canadian Individual Slam in Vancouver in April 2018. He also represented this group for the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in 2017 and 2018. He recently finished the Indigenous Fine Arts Residency in Banff Centre for the Arts, called ‘Ghost Days, Making Art for Spirit. 2019’. From this he has created the Art Performance ‘Sahkihitok’, which was preformed at Nuit Blanche Saskatoon. His work has led to community initiatives like planting misaskwatomina (Saskatoon berry) shrubs by the river near downtown Saskatoon with a group known as Locals Only. With many public speaking engagements his aim is to always inspire the next upcoming artists, like the first Indigenous Poets Society Team who he had coached at CFSW 2019 in Guelph, Ontario.
A collection of paintings that were created by Kevin Wesaquate still hang at the Saskatchewan Polytechnique Adult Education building. He is from Piapot First Nation where he learned the value of a community anfd proudly shares those teachings in Saskatoon or where ever his work takes him. Sahkihitok (love one another).
Madison Pascal, born 1990 in Regina, is an emerging artist of Saulteaux and French/Ukrainian ancestry working mainly in painting and drawing. In 2014, she studied abroad in Sunderland, United Kingdom where she was able to expand her skills in darkroom and digital photography. In 2016, Madison graduated from the University of Regina with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree: International with a major in drawing and painting. She received many awards including: Academic Silver Scholarship (2014), Maurice Neitzel Award (2014), Elizabeth Blight Memorial Scholarship (2015), and the Kiley Carlson Memorial Scholarship (2015) and was a nominee for the BMO first! Art Award. Madison is an acting board member of the Art Gallery of Regina, a non-profit, public gallery. Her works have been included in group exhibitions in Saskatchewan and Manitoba including, the MacKenzie Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Regina, and downtown Winnipeg, along with two public works in downtown Regina and can be found in many private and corporate collections.
Madison’s works are based on emotional experiences, which she uses to open a unique poetic vein dealing with the subject of identity and of mixed ancestry. Multi-layered and finely detailed images seduce the viewer into a world of nostalgia and intimate moments. She immortalizes objects and preserves feelings that are important to herself and that can easily relate to the viewer. The figure will never age, the flowers will never wilt, and the beauty captured will outlast that of time.
Madison works from her studio in downtown Regina.
Artwork Title: They Were Seeds
“Truth and Reconciliation are two words with a heavy weight. They are words of action, not performative intention. They should not be taken lightly, and they should not be spoken with empty promise.
My Kokum, Jean Pascal, was a victim of the Canadian Residential Schools. She was one of an estimated 150,000 children that attended Residential Schools in Canada. She and her siblings resided at The Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School located on the White Calf Indian Reserve, governed by the Star Blanket Cree Nation near Lebret, Saskatchewan. The Qu’Appelle Indian School was established in 1884, was closed in 1998, and finally demolished in 1999 after 114 years of operation.
This piece is for all my relations, the ones who didn’t make it home and the ones that did. You were seeds and change has come to fruition. You are loved.”
Phyllis is a Métis artist living in Regina and a farm girl at heart.
Phyllis says: “As I reflect on my art, I contemplate the many value connections that my Métis family and the Métis people have with animals, plants and nature. One example is how my Kokum’s creativity and determination inspired my art. She lived in a two-room house on Jackrabbit Street on the road allowance in Lebret, Saskatchewan. There she brought up 11 children with her husband Grégoire Poitras. During the winter months she lived with us, as her home lacked amenities. Lovingly we would string beads for her gorgeous necklaces. For our efforts she gave us a nickel per string, which would go full circle in an evening game of rummy. The sales of necklaces provided her with extra income for living expenses. The elders in my youth were positive role models and always encouraged my creative nature.”
“The footprints represent children that have attended Residential Schools. The Eagle has profound Spiritual meaning for most Indigenous people. It’s believed to be a messenger between the Creator and Mother Earth. In my art, they symbolize love as they do in the Seven Grandfather teachings. The flowers represent Flower Day. This is a day set a side in many Indigenous communities to lay flowers on the gravesites of their loved ones and to send prayers out to their Spirits and the Creator.
Every Child Matters
I sign my art P. Poitras-Jarrett honouring both my Métis mother (Cree-Ojib, French) and my Scottish-English father. I will always promote pride and positivity through art in the community and in Indigenous people.”
RON EWENIN WAPEMOOSE
In 1995, Ron Ewenin turned to art as a way to pull himself from the downhill turn his life had taken. Originally from the Cowessess First Nation, Ewenin spent time in the residential school system before sliding into an institutional life, spent in and out of correctional institutions. To break free of the cycle, Ewenin started painting.
Ron says: “I was always artistic and it’s the only thing that I had… I never picked up a lot of job skills or even living skills. So I picked all those up while I was doing art and art sustained me. Otherwise I wouldn’t have anything to lean on while I was recovering. I used art to help me straighten out and start associating with people through my art. It helped me a lot in recovering and healing.”