Indigenous Placemaking

Central Library Installations

Through Indigenous Placemaking, we welcome artists from or with a connection to Treaty 7 to create permanent installations in Library locations.

The creation of these works inspires collaboration among artists of all disciplines, backgrounds, and experience levels. Having these pieces in the Library helps create an inclusive space for sharing and gathering of all Nations and communities, to learn and grow together. 

The Indigenous Placemaking Initiative began with four pieces installed at Central Library prior to its opening on November 1, 2018. Since then, Placemaking has continued to grow at Central Library, and in other Library locations around the city. Learn more about these works and the artists who created them below.

Indigenous Placemaking is supported by the Suncor Energy Foundation. 

Survival Harvesting (Past)

Roland Rollinmud
Welcome Wall, Level 1 (2018)

Survival Harvesting depicts a history of First Nations in Canada, particularly the Stoney Nation, truly as the stewards of the Land. By portraying the traditional hunting methods, berry harvesting, and traditional ceremonies practiced by the Bearspaw, Chiniki and Wesley Nations, this work illustrates methods of self-sufficiency still used to this day. The imagery within the mural exemplifies the resourcefulness to take care of oneself and one's family.

Rollinmud depicts the 200-year gap between First Contact and the present day, by not only showing how things have changed, but also how life was much simpler when camps shared space with members of diverse tribes and nations. This knowledge has been passed down to Rollinmud from growing up in community with his parents, extended family members, and ancestors.

Sharing the Knowledge (Present)

Keegan Starlight
Welcome Wall, Level 1 (2018)

The concept behind the collaborative mural for Central Library has a big emphasis on the past, present, and future of the traditional pride within the tribes of Treaty 7. This includes the Blackfoot Confederacy, Tsuut’ina, Stoney Nakoda, and Métis Nation Region 3. The triptych shows a progression of the (Past) from when tribal traditions were an essential part of life and dictated how the land was respected, the animals, as well as each other.

Starlight's (Present) portion shows how reclaiming Indigenous traditions and passing them along to the children brings us to the (Future) portion, which depicts how fully reclaiming traditional ways that men, women, and children can all practice and share with each other renews health back to the people. Sharing the Knowledge shows how important culture is to each tribe both as individuals and as a collective group through living, sharing, and respecting one another.

Spiritual Changes Through Indigenous Teachings (Future)

Kalum Teke Dan
Welcome Wall, Level 1 (2018)

This painting is an example of the modern exchange of Indigenous knowledge as well as the pride that Indigenous people have in their culture. Teke Dan believes that through the revival of traditional Indigenous knowledge, there is hope that Indigenous peoples will have the tools to move forward while preserving their cultural identity in this contemporary society.

Spiritual Changes Through Indigenous Teachings features many themes and images that are ubiquitous throughout modern times. The painting's central theme is the modern exchange of Indigenous knowledge as we all move towards the future. It shows images of storytelling, a father teaching his son to be a Chicken Dancer, wild horses showing that the Blood Tribe (Kainai) are horse people, Chief Mountain, and the image of Chief Crowfoot. Teke Dan's hope is that this painting will give the people of Calgary and the visitors of it, an idea of the overall beauty that Indigenous cultures and the land of the Blood Tribe hold.

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Education is the New Buffalo

Lionel Peyachew
Civic Concourse, Level 1M (2018)

Historically the key to survival was the success of hunting wildlife and in contrast, the most important reliance to survival today is education. Peyachew utilizes the tools of education in letters and numbers by constructing an icon that symbolizes the legacy of survival from the past to the present. He chose to honour the buffalo as the universal symbol for all Indigenous people as a legacy for survival for all cultures. The North American Bison, who like the Indigenous cultures was on the brink of extinction and like the Indigenous people, has recently began to grow in numbers.

The concept to use language text from local Indigenous groups to fabricate the icon has reinstated that education is key to sustaining a healthy living environment. Engaging the public to search for Indigenous words can relate to problem solving, word search, research, perception, and creativity, tasks that are most often associated to developing the mind in an education environment.

About the Artist

Lionel Peyachew is a sculptor and associate professor at the First Nations University of Canada in Regina, Saskatchewan. In 2000, he graduated with an MFA from the University of Calgary. He also has a BFA in Sculpture from the University of Lethbridge and the Alberta College of Art and Design.

Peyachew’s maternal side is from the Nakota Grizzly Bear Head First Nations and his paternal side is from the Red Pheasant First Nations. He came to call Kainai Nation home after living and teaching for the Kainai Board of Education for several years, and at the Red Crow Community College and Old Sun College. While Peyachew currently teaches in Saskatchewan, his family continues to call Kainai Nation home.

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Art as Language

Adrian Stimson
Fiction Collection, Level 2 (2019)

Mnemonic devices and symbolic gestures are key components of the pictographic Blackfoot language, found in historic winter counts, ledger drawings, and petroglyphs. Traditionally, it has often been up to the artist to determine the symbol that represented a single word or idea — and equally up to the reader to decipher their own personal meaning.

Over time depictions of words and ideas have morphed, but there has always been recognition of previous artist’s ideas present — a consistency that binds language, culture and identity together.

In consultation with Blackfoot knowledge keepers, Stimson created a narrative in the traditional written language of his nation that represents and resonates with the territories and nations of Mohkinstsis.

Shared in figures of steel and aluminum, this story transcends two-dimensional space and brings language into the three-dimensional environment, symbolic of the physicality of traditional oral languages.

The interaction between floor and wall elements helps the viewer to visualize a uniquely Indigenous way of thinking about communicating with each other.

About the Artist

Adrian Stimson is a member of the Siksika Nation, part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. He holds a BFA with distinction from the Alberta College of Art and Design, an MFA from the University of Saskatchewan., and has been to Afghanistan as part of the Canadian Forces Artist Program.

His work spans several mediums, including painting, performance, film, and installation art. Stimson attended three residential schools in his life, and has used that experience to create pieces that speak to genocide, loss, and resilience.

He has received numerous awards, including the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, the Blackfoot Visual Arts Award, and the Governor General Award in Visual and Media Arts.

The Spirit Within

Jesse Gouchey, Tanisha Wesley, and Autumn Whiteway
Teen Centre, Level 3 (2019)

Just as the Teen Centre is a space for collaboration between growing minds, so too is this mural, which brought together three emerging artists to complete it through the Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth (USAY). This augmented reality wall expands beyond the borders of existing space in more than one way. 


A traditional landscape bridges the gap between the panels, symbolic of the limitless potential of nature. Community leaders and Elders were consulted to determine the images that would represent their communities within this shared Treaty 7 landscape.

People can also experience this piece in the digital realm by using the USAY AR app to scan the mural with their mobile device. Learn about the rivers, mountains, animals and other features of the mural, as well as hear a land acknowledgement gifted by Elder Randy Bottle. This interactive landscape speaks to people, just as this land has been teaching Indigenous peoples for thousands of years.

Traditional Men’s Dance Regalia

Treffrey Deerfoot
Calgary's Story, Level 4 (2019)

Men’s Traditional Dance originates from the Blackfoot people of southern Alberta. Each dance has its own unique story, as does each outfit worn by its performers. An authentic outfit, even one made in modern times, is always built to last. Thus, each artist who creates a piece like this leaves a beautiful legacy with each outfit they create.

This dance regalia was constructed using traditional methods of making. The two-needle stitching method allows the beads to be pinned down more securely, resulting in beadwork that lays flat and allows for consistency in the geometric design. Taking after traditional regalia, none of the beads in this piece are metallic or plastic — only traditional colours and natural materials are used. These include leather, fur, feathers, bells, hoofs, horns, guard hair, gun shells, and cloth.

Beadwork is an artform that requires plenty of time and patience; it is a meditative practice. During the construction of this outfit, Deerfoot prayed as he worked to ensure beneficial energy was incorporated into every stitch.

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About the Artist

Treffrey Deerfoot is a dancer, language keeper, cultural presenter, traditional storyteller, and ceremonialist who has traveled across the world to share the stories and dance of the Blackfoot people. He is the current organizer and choreographer of the Blackfoot Medicine Speaks Dance Troupe.

Deerfoot’s practice demonstrates that creation stories reflect spiritual connections to the land. He works to inspire young people to recognize their gifts, understand that ceremonies have strong spiritual and social significance and encourage youth by promoting pride in their heritage.

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Tina Dik’iizh | clear road or clear trail

Glenna Cardinal
Children's Lodge, Level 4 (2018)

A new collection of furnishings created by Glenna Cardinal that holds First Nation influence with designs and cultural inspirations. Through this new commission she explores her bone deep connection to the reserve land that she grew up on, the land which was her Tsuut’ina Nation grandmothers’, now the Southwest Ring Road, and this is her response to her displacement. She is looking to reclaim herself in how she reuses and reimagines her materials.

Cardinal has drawn inspiration from this struggle and poured her sense of home into the details of her work. She is creating and seeking comfort in home furnishings and finding beauty in a new place. Cardinal is a Saddle Lake Cree Nation member that continues to reside on her mother’s reserve, the Tsuut’ina Nation. Once a safe place, it is now a land wiped clean of their existence, returned to the same people that put First Nations on reserves.

About the Artist

Glenna Cardinal is a Saddle Lake Cree Nation member who grew up and continues to reside on her mother’s reserve, Tsuut’ina Nation. Her designs are influenced by First Nation culture and tradition. She explores her bone deep connection to the reserve land that six generations of maternal family touched. She has drawn inspiration from this struggle and poured her sense of home into the details of her work.

Cardinal’s practice is creating a chair, a bench, a shawl, a table, a curtain, or a photograph, seeking comfort in home furnishings and finding beauty in a new place. This is her response to displacement as she is looking to reclaim herself in how she reuses and reimagines her materials.

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Aiitskaitsiiwa | She is Reminiscing

Brittney Bear Hat
Children's Lodge, Level 4 (2018)

Aiitskaitsiiwa | She Is Reminiscing is a new body of work by Bear Hat that presents a conversation between images of the Treaty 7 landscape and her own stories growing up in this land. Learning new and particular skills is a focal point of growing up; Bear Hat’s father often taught her such skills, developing her knowledge and teaching her why this land is so important. What was often cast as summer fun always turned out to be integral lessons about the land.

Aiitskaitsiiwa | She Is Reminiscing includes images taken by Bear Hat, of places in and around Calgary that serve as significant backdrops of important moments throughout her life: where she learned how to safely swim in the Bow River, replete with strong currents, and how a rock or a washed over branch can be souvenir to their time spent together. There is simple beauty that comes from the landscape; these stories speak to such beauty. They should be heard.

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About the Artist

Brittney Bear Hat is a 2011 graduate from the Alberta College of Art and Design, where she majored in painting with an interest in collage and drawing. Based in Calgary, her work focuses on identity and belonging.

Half Blackfoot and half Cree, Bear Hat makes work about memory and how her personal history is what makes her Native. Her work involves the process of taking her own family photos or personal items and combining them with text, retelling stories and memories. With each piece, Bear Hat is trying to figure out what is hers and what she can call home.