By Ryan Clarke
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The City of Lethbridge has unveiled new art pieces along Great Bear Boulevard that reflect Blackfoot culture.
The 600 metre stretch of road on the city’s westside will host nine of Marjie Crop Eared Wolf’s iinii (buffalo) sculptures, and a landscape of plants designed by her and other Kainai Elders.
Fire Hall No. 5 will showcase a mural by Hali Heavy Shield titled Iiyikitapiiyit, Be Brave, Fearless, along with a fire truck that is wrapped by Rudy Black Plume depicting Niitsitapii artwork.
With the Indigenous artwork proudly on display it will open more learning about the Blackfoot culture and the symbolism each art installation shows.
“There is something truly special, something more significant, that emerges when we examine and celebrate these pieces as a collection,” said Jillian Bracken, community arts and culture manager for the City. “An ecosystem of representation, truth and respect that now lives in this new area of our community.”
Language elements highlight some of the artwork.
“Indigenous placemaking is so important. I think it’s art really healing and it brings people together,” said Heavy Shield. “I chose to incorporate Blackfoot language into my art, because as an intergenerational Residential School survivor, I’m trying to learn my language and incorporating it in my art is important to help teach others too.”
“The piece I did is not an individual piece onto itself, but a project where I reached out to my community to try to include us and represent us as a whole,” said Crop Eared Wolf. “It is important for us as Blackfoot artists to continue to hold each other up and celebrate each other.”
Firefighters at the fire hall were happy to show their support to the awareness these pieces represent.
“Today is a huge honour for us, especially to meet the artists that put this wonderful work on our fire hall, as well as the fire apparatus,” said Gerrit Sinke, deputy chief of Lethbridge Fire.
“It is so significant to us, because so much of it speaks about the history of this great country and the wonderful people that come before us. Also, the amount of thought that they put into the artwork and to blend it together with the work that we do as firefighter paramedics. It speaks to the bravery and timelessness of this profession.”
The installations create an ecosystem of Blackfoot cultural representation with the goal of reflecting the diversity in Lethbridge’s community, while demonstrating how public space can be a forum for expression and inclusion.
“It is a learning opportunity and an education opportunity for the city,” said Crop Eared Wolf. “These are avenues for education, to learn more about ourselves, our language, our culture, and our ties to this space.”
Ryan Clarke is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter who works out of the
LETHBRIDGE HERALD. The LJI program is federally funded. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.