(Fort McMurray, AB – April 25, 2022) – The municipality unveiled Indigenous reconciliation artwork in council chambers during a special ceremony held April 25.
Originally stemming from a Council motion in 2019, the art represents the municipality’s ongoing commitment to truth and reconciliation and recognizes Indigenous peoples as the first stewards of the land.
“The artwork in our council chambers helps us recognize the truth about Indigenous peoples and their experiences,” said Mayor Sandy Bowman. “I hope this will serve as a constant reminder that through art we can come together in reconciliation and foster understanding. We can – and we will continue – to recognize the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples and their eternal contributions to this region. My deepest gratitude goes to everyone who has played a part in achieving this goal.”
As the voices and perspectives of Indigenous peoples were at the forefront of the design of the artwork, Monday evening’s ceremony was opened with a blessing from Elder Robert Cree and included words from the Elder Alice Martin. Elder Martin helped shape the group of local Aboriginal Elders and knowledge keepers, known as the Circle of Knowledge and Artistic Expression, which guided the process.
Main artist selected by the Circle of Knowledge and Artistic Expression
The first meeting of the Circle of Knowledge and Artistic Expression took place on June 3, 2021. Elders, knowledge keepers and creatives representing several Indigenous communities in the region chose First Nation artist Frederick R. McDonald of Fort McKay, as the lead artist on the project. .
Elders and Knowledge Keepers, many of whom are survivors of residential schools and day schools, shared difficult truths with the artist as he developed design concepts. The artworks also represent their shared history, traditions, love for nature and include a nod to the contemporary influence of a hopeful future generation.
A Talking Stick is an additional piece included in the council room. This piece was created by elder Shirley Arthurs and honors the sharing circle process used to reach consensus on artist selection and design concepts. A common thread in all rooms is the Seven Sacred Teachings honesty, love, truth, humility, wisdom, courage and respect.
“We, in conjunction with Public Art Wood Buffalo, are honored to have had the opportunity to assist the Circle of Elders and Knowledge Keepers in bringing such meaningful artwork to the council chamber,” said Dennis Fraser, Director, Indigenous and Rural Relations. “We sincerely hope this leads us to embrace a deeper discussion of reconciliation as it is told through artistic expression.”