STUDENT’S REFLECTIVE WRITINGS
Student’s work inspired by art of Sonny McDonald, John Sabourin,
and Eli Nasogaluak, and Armand Vaillancourt titled
The Cultural Crossroads
This piece resonates deeply with me since my ancestors on my mother’s side are from different communities in the North, and on my father’s side, are French and of Irish descent. Both my grandparents are residential school survivors and have suffered a great deal from their time there.
I understand the deep and lasting impact this has had on my family and many other families in Canada. Like the raven, our people are resilient, resourceful, and communal.
The painted rock facade is accompanied by a bronze sculpture that sits at the foot of the artwork and at the summit of the rock sits a teepee. The Federation Franco-Tenoise initiated this piece of art as part of a cross-cultural project. This project’s development began in 1999 as a collaboration between Yellowknife artist Sonny MacDonald, Dene carver John Sabourin, Eli Nasogaluak from Tuktoyaktuk, and Armand Vaillancourt from Montreal.
The Indigenous artists crafted the bronze sculpture, and it consists of three animals and one drum. The three animals are dancing together, and each animal represents an Indigenous group, and the drum represents the universal language of music. An artist from Quebec made the teepee out of steel, and it symbolizes the Indigenous community and their rights to their ancestral lands. Finally, the rock facade comprises a raven soaring in the middle of a big circle surrounded by hundreds of signs and symbols of different colors (Baladodecouverte, n.d.).
I have passed this art piece countless times, whether I was walking past it, driving past it, or simply climbing up the rock to reach the summit. I always admired its beauty, but I never paid much attention to it or its detail. This mural’s location is quite significant as it connects a small Dene community to the rest of Yellowknife. It acknowledges the painful history of the Indigenous people but emphasizes the desire to bridge cultures that make up the North’s culturally diverse population.
Acknowledging and supporting the richness of these identities and diversities are essential elements of the framework in its role in reconciliation with Indigenous people, responsibility to the environment, and engagement with technological change
– (Government of British Columbia, 2019, p. 30)
The teepee at the top of the mountain is made of steel. It symbolizes the resilience of the Indigenous population and how they were and will always be here. It represents their ability to withstand cultural genocide through the 1876 Indian Act, the Indian residential school system, and the foundation of colonial practices that persist today in Indigenous communities.
The use of steel, a material introduced by the settlers, reveals how colonizers influenced Indigenous populations and reformed their way of living. The way the teepee poles are intertwined makes me think of the entanglement between different nations, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
I think of my child interacting with the teepee and its surroundings. He is seemingly unaware of how the disconnected modern society is from nature. Rather, he is connected to his surroundings in a natural and fluid way.
If provided with the right knowledge, there is an opportunity for him to remain connected in this way and diverge from the colonialism that Canadian society will want to force upon him.