STONEY NAKODA – The unveiling of four paintings placed around the atrium in the Morley Community School left humble smiles on the Stoney Nakoda artists’ faces as they showcased the past, present and future through their art at a ceremony on Monday (June 24).
“This is to show we can overcome our differences and bridge the gaps,” Doamas Kaquitts, one of the several artists involved in the project, said proudly after the paintings were revealed to the community.
Demonstrating a timeline of Indigenous history, the artists created four canvases representing Stoney Nakoda people. The murals represented where they are now, with a landscape of mountains and a river; their hopes and dreams, with four teepees, and four faceless Indigenous people including a chief and graduate; what holds Indigenous people back, a dark painting with a river turned black carrying a floating skull and an empty alcohol bottle with portions of the Indian Act above it; and the final mural showcasing their strength and gifts with a drumming circle in the mountains.
When unveiling the third mural that took portions from Indian Act, a federal document designed to impose government control over Indigenous people, with the words painted, “The Crown hereby bans all Indian ceremonies. You may not leave the reservations without an Indian agent. [And] any acts will lead to imprisonment” – Kaquitts joked the starting bid was $250.
The paintings are not for sale though and instead were hung in the elders room in the community school as a reminder of how far Indigenous people have come.
“What we are doing is showing where we are, the effects of the Indian Act and our strengths and gifts and we are showing how we as a community can come together,” Kaquitts said.
The project was in partnership with the University of Calgary under the Alberta Indigenous Mentorship in Health Innovation program. Jennifer Leason, with the program, worked with the Morley Community School with Kaquitts, Shane Stephens, Emanuel Bearspaw, Kayley Poucette, Jaron Fox, Rain Kootenay and Storm Ketchemonia. At the end of the project, each student was offered two fine arts credits to go towards their high school diploma.
Elders, school officials, students and artists were in attendance for the unveiling as the knowledge keepers spoke of their pride for the younger generation, before local powwow dancers performed a short dance to honour the new art pieces.
“Today with education we can put the past behind us and better ourselves,” said elder Virgil Stephens.
The ceremony ended with the new artwork in the elders room in the community school, a community lunch and also gave students and staff an opportunity to say goodbye to principal Judy Anderson who announced she would not be returning as principal next year to spend more time in her “grandma” role.
“It’s been great,” Anderson said about her time at the school.