Many gathered

Snow fell and many gathered on Saturday, September 15, 2018, to celebrate the opening of Queen Elizabeth Park and Edmonton’s first Indigenous Arts Park, ᐄᓃᐤ (ÎNÎW) River Lot 11∞

The visitor reads and hears and feels.

Before this land was a city it was, and remains, a place for Cree, Dene, Blackfoot, Saulteaux, Stoney, and Métis peoples to gather. Its deep history resonates in the present through artworks by six Indigenous artists from across Canada. Their visionary responses to this place, its languages, customs, tools, animals, and images, offer pathways for the future.

The name and vision for this art park were developed in collaboration with the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations, Métis Nation of Alberta, curator Candice Hopkins, local Indigenous artists, community members, Elders and knowledge holders.

ᐄᓃᐤ (ÎNÎW) River Lot 11∞ features:

Reign, Mary Anne Barkhouse, 2018, polished granite, etched quartz, bronze.
ᐃᐢᑯᑌᐤ (iskotew), Amy Malbeuf, 2018, painted steel. 
Preparing to Cross the Sacred River, Marianne Nicolson, 2018, sandblasted slab rock, river rock, concrete.
mikikwan, Duane Linklater, 2018, concrete.
pehonan, Tiffany Shaw-Collinge, 2018, quartzite, corten steel, wood, polished stainless steel.
mamohkamatowin (Helping Each Other), Jerry Whitehead, 2018, ceramic tile, concrete.

The park site holds River Lot 11, the homestead of Joseph McDonald, Métis farmer, freighter and fur trader for the Hudson’s Bay Company. McDonald was one of the first settlers on the south side of the river and key in building the city. McDonald raised his family and worked on the site for decades. 

The park includes walking paths, picnic tables, a gathering shelter, lookout points, benches, bike racks—and colourful trash containers. 

The park also features a wall along the footprint of the original Queen Elizabeth outdoor swimming pool on which is inscribed the happy review of one bather who spoke for countless.

The bath looked very inviting due to the deep green of the surrounding trees.

The crowd at the opening ceremony heard from Art Park Steering Committee member Christine Sokaymoh Frederick explain that the park begins to answer a question asked by Indigenous people in the Edmonton area, “Where are we reflected in the landscape of our city? We have always been here. This park is now revealing that fact. People can now see us easier.”

And people listened to park curator Candice Hopkins thank the artists for “allowing us to see history and to make the future manifest.”

And they listened to Edmonton Arts Council Executive Director Sanjay Shahani praise art that reminds us there is beauty in life no matter how mundane our day-to-day might feel.

Celebrating the opening of ᐄᓃᐤ (ÎNÎW) River Lot 11∞ and Queen

People at the opening ceremony listened to MP Randy Boissonnault declare a moment quintessentially Canadian that combined falling snow, smiling people, warm coffee, the arts, and Truth and Reconciliation in action.

Celebrating the opening of ᐄᓃᐤ (ÎNÎW) River Lot 11∞ and Queen Elizabeth Park

And people heard Métis Nation of Alberta President Audrey Poitras provide a history lesson: “The rich history surrounding this area, the Walterdale Bridge, the Fort Edmonton gravesite, the traditional burial grounds and a few miles south of the river was the historic reserve of the Papaschase band, all this makes this site the perfect venue to house Edmonton’s first curated Indigenous public art park.”

And people heard Mayor Don Iveson say, of the park and of the city, that “everyone is welcome here, everyone can contribute here, everyone should be uplifted by each other here.”

Ribbon Cutting – Celebrating the opening of ᐄᓃᐤ (ÎNÎW) River Lot 11∞ and Queen Elizabeth Park

The park, located below Saskatchewan Drive and along Queen Elizabeth Park Road, cost $5.3 million and is part of the Queen Elizabeth Park Master Plan.

Find the park here:

Take a virtual tour of ᐄᓃᐤ (ÎNÎW) River Lot 11∞, learn more about the art works, and enjoy interviews with the artists in this video made by Conor McNally for the Edmonton Arts Council. When the park wasn’t so snowy.

ÎNÎW means “I am of the Earth.”