Country Hills Library will close at 5 pm today (July 18) due to ongoing issue with facility maintenance.
Indigenous Placemaking

Community 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. 

In 2019, Placemaking branched out into community Library locations. Since then, it has become a priority for Placemaking to someday be available at every community Library location. Learn more about these works and the artists who created them below. 

Indigenous Placemaking is supported by the Suncor Energy Foundation. 

Trickster Tales

Rudy Black Plume, Iitsikiitsapoyii (Standing On Top Alone)
Crowfoot Library (2021)

Throughout the Americas, the "Trickster" character appears in some form within every culture. Trickster stories are integral in Indigenous cultures, as they teach us about right and wrong. They are full of adventure, humour, wisdom, foolishness, generosity, and greed, and always end with a lesson being learned.

The Trickster comes in many forms: for the Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot), he is a man; for the Tsuut'ina, he appears as either a coyote or raven; for the Îyarhe Nakoda, he is a spider; and for the Nêhiyawak (Plains Cree) and Métis, he is a rabbit. Within Siksikaitsitapi understanding of the Trickster, he is the creator of the landscapes within our territory. 

His stories give us knowledge of how to live off the land in a way that secures the continuity of our sacred medicines and food sources. Trickster Tales seeks to empower the Treaty 7 community by highlighting Indigenous storytelling as an essential element to understanding Indigenous ways of knowing.

 

About the Artist

Rudy Black Plume, Iitsikiitsapoyii (Standing On Top Alone) is an artist, elementary school teacher, and member of the Kainai Nation within the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksikaitsitapi). She holds a B.A. in Native American Studies and a B.Ed. in Native Education from the University of Lethbridge. Rudy’s art is rooted in her love for Niitsitapi culture and draws inspiration from Blackfoot ways of knowing. Her practice is reflective of her experiences as a Blackfoot person living in a world that lacks representation of Indigenous perspectives. Black Plume understands that representation is crucial to our lived experiences, as it helps to shape how we envision ourselves and how we are perceived by others. She believes art and creativity can broaden perspectives, bring people together, and heal our spirits.

Winter Count

Rodney Big Bull
Forest Lawn Library, teen fiction collection (2019)

On January 23, 1870, in the Piegan Blackfoot territory of Montana, the American army attacked an Indigenous band led by Chief Heavy Runner, to whom the government had previously promised protection. This attack, known as the Baker Massacre, resulted in the deaths of approximately 200 Indigenous peoples, most of who were women, children, and elderly people.

Big Bull’s work recounts this tragedy as this nation itself might have, had they lived to share their story. The winter count is a pictorial history in which important events for a nation are recorded. This history, depicted on elk hide, memorializes the Indigenous peoples who lost their lives in that battle, and considers how the Indian Wars impacted our shared history as a nation.

About the Artist

Rodney Big Bull (March 17, 1957 – November 29, 2019) was from the Piikani First Nation. He was a human rights activist, playwright, art teacher, and mentor for Indigenous artists for over 40 years. His work sheds light on the hard truths of colonialism, and the need to reconcile these tragedies through art and documenting history. He loved to teach children and youth, empowering them to tell their stories, connect with their culture, and learn about the world around them.

Tragically, Rodney Big Bull passed away on November 29, 2019, but his spirit and passion for his craft lives on through his works. The Library is honoured to house his final handcrafted piece as part of this collection.

si’káániksi~blankets

Hali Heavy Shield, Nato’yi’kina’soyi (Holy Light that Shines Bright)
Saddletowne Library (2021)

In this piece, seven large panels resemble blankets of various geometric designs, thematic colours, and symbols of nature. In contemporary Blackfoot culture, blankets are often gifted as gestures of gratitude, comfort, and protection. These seven blanket panels were designed to celebrate and honour the Indigenous communities within the Treaty 7 area. 

si’káániksi~blankets was created during the COVID-19 pandemic and began to take on other meanings for the artist. During the onset of colonization, Blackfoot nations survived the smallpox disease as it claimed thousands of lives. The Blackfoot continue to be a strong and spiritual people, who continue to thrive, particularly through education. Public libraries serve to provide a place for all people to gather, access knowledge, and engage in meaningful learning.

About the Artist

Nato’yi’kina’soyi, Hali Heavy Shield is a multidisciplinary artist and educator and is a member of the Blood Tribe (Kainai) of southern Alberta. Hali’s work is influenced by experiences in her home community, including Blackfoot stories, significant sites, family, and women as sources of strength and goodness. She often uses vibrant colours, text, and symbolism to braid contemporary and traditional Indigenous realities with imagined futurisms. Hali is also a literacy activist who works to engage others in generative discussion and practices of reconciliation and creativity.

Flowers for My Ancestors: A Métis Story

Sarah Houle
Seton Library (2021)

In this ceramic printing on glass, the artist honours the story of her great-grandparents. Floral motifs take the place of their features to represent the Métis as “the flower beadwork people.” 

A slideshow of digital art and photographs outlines their story with an accompanying soundtrack by Sarah's band, Cîpayak ᒌᐸᕀ. This artwork reflects on the journey of her ancestors and parallels Houle’s own story of setting down roots in Calgary, Mohkinstsis, with its existing rich Métis history.

Louis Houle was a young man and about the best violin player in town. He played at all the dances. That is where I used to see him. I never really met him. He said to someone, ‘There's the girl I'm going to marry.’ Louis was a trapper and Emilie the mother of eight children.” 

Excerpt from an article written by Emilie Houle, in the Athabasca newspaper

About the Artist

Sarah Houle is a multidisciplinary Métis artist based in Calgary, Mohkinstsis. She is from the Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement in Northern Alberta. Her work is autobiographical with an interest in technology, fantasy, and craft. Cultural identity in the age of digital technology is important in her work, as elements of physical and digital space come together to conjure nostalgic imagery. Modern-day fantastical legends express the artist’s social commentary on identity from the perspective of Métis culture and heritage. Centering on family, Houle’s work showcases the resiliency present in everyday Indigenous life.

The Beginning

USAY Youth Artists Collective
Shawnessy Library (2021)

This sculpture represents the Treaty 7 creation story of Turtle Island. After consultation with Treaty 7 Elders regarding various creation stories, a team of Indigenous women were inspired to interpret that story into a layered glass sculpture.

The sculpture contains seven panels of glass that each represent the seven sacred teachings, as well as one component from the story. The animals, people, and Napi are all shown on their panels in the way they were interpreted by the artists to play a vital role in the creation of Turtle Island and the sacred land of Indigenous people.

The sculpture itself is composed of tempered, sandblasted glass which has been set into rough cut cedar. Many Indigenous people utilize cedar as a sacred medicine, and it is viewed as a way to cleanse and bless areas, which is why it was used in this piece.

The glass ensures that the sculpture filters the natural light in the space and interacts with the space in which it exists. The intention is to view an Indigenous story while seeing the books and stories surrounding it. It represents the ways we all can share our voice in unity and cohesion, without obscuring one another.

Although the story is widely published, the artists received permission to share the artwork from the creation story but not the story itself. Those interested are encouraged to reach out to local Elders to find out more about how Indigenous people tell their creation stories.

Na'pis World

Lauren Monroe Jr.
Signal Hill Library, Oculus (2019)

Appropriately adorning the well of a skylight, Monroe’s work depicts the cosmology of traditional Blackfoot storytelling. In the background, the mural maps the traditional territory of the Blackfoot people. Significant sites and landmarks are noted in both Blackfoot and English. 

In the foreground, constellations, animals, plants, and other beings from Blackfoot stories interact with each other. Human and animal figures appear in equal prominence, demonstrating equality among men and animals within this tradition. Though the figures are represented as traditional petroglyphs, they are cut from sheet metal, symbolic of the endurance of traditional ways. Beadwork and painted accents add colours used in traditional Blackfoot artworks to the piece.

About the Artist

Lauren Monroe Jr. is a painter from the Amskapii Pikanni, a band of the Siksikaisitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy). His art reflects the Blackfoot culture and his own interpretation as an artist of the culture and world around him. Active in both the culture and history of the Blackfoot People, he feels his art is a bridge to better understanding of his people and their history. He currently resides on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana and is pursuing his doctorate while continuing to study Blackfoot culture.

Treaty 7 Art Mural

Nathan Patrick Meguinis (Traveling Rock, Buffalo Boy, Kind Hearted Man)
Village Square Library (2023)

The concepts behind Treaty 7 Art Mural are balance, mentorship, learning, and staying connected to Treaty 7 lands we share and protect. 

Libraries are a source of knowledge that bridges cultures and generations through the written word, stories, and entertainment. This piece depicts yellow hands, representing men and women helpers at ceremonies, feasts, and events who have received some form of mentorship by knowledge keepers and Elders. This piece represents one of the ways knowledge and culture have traditionally been shared between generations.  

Meguinis’ piece blends modern with tradition using ledger-style, pictographic hide art combined with a nod to anime illustration styles and bright colours. Every colour and image chosen is symbolic and holds deep meaning, significance, and reverence.  

About the Artist

Nathan Patrick Meguinis is a Tsuut’ina artist, muralist, illustrator, powwow dancer, husband, and father to four beautiful children. His artistic style is a mix of abstraction and realism that tells stories, historical events, philosophies, and cultural teachings about his Tsuut’ina (Dene Nation) way of life in Treaty 7. All of his works incorporate Yellow Hands knowledge and symbolic ceremonial colours. Nathan has created numerous murals and projects across southern Alberta, including at the cSPACE building, the Luna Centre (formerly the Calgary and Area Child Advocacy Centre), the Calgary Zoo, in downtown Drumheller, and now at Village Square Library.