Indigenous mural in Jasper National Park honours Matriarchs and Mother Earth
Jasper National Park
Artist bb.iskwew made her mark during the UpLift! Jasper Mural Festival, 2023, in the form of a vivid mural depicting her inspiration – her Kokum (Grandmother), Christie Catt. Sakâw Nehiyaw Iskwew is originally from Slave Lake in Treaty 8 territory. She is Bush Cree from Big Stone Cree Nation and mixed ancestry, including connections to Sawridge Cree Nation. Her English name is Kayla Bellerose.
The stunning “Grandmother’s Medicine” mural on the prominent Heritage Fire Hall building provided by Parks Canada is a gift she hopes will keep on giving by creating a welcoming spot for Indigenous peoples to feel represented and loved.
“My intention is for people to see this mural and feel a sense of connection to matriarchal roots to this land. The mountains are a very special place. We still use the mountains to access medicines and do many activities that are our way of life.
This mural honours Grandmothers, something this society doesn’t do well enough. Traditionally, Grandmothers were leaders and made a lot of decisions and women are seen as sacred in our culture. They are lifegivers. If you want the Earth to heal, you must respect women, the Grandmothers and the Moms, because they are Mother Earth.
The Grandmother in this mural is my Grandma, Christie Catt who just turned 75. She’s been a huge inspiration. I remember her always being busy making something with her hands and it nurtured my creativity as a child.”
Kayla’s inspiration Christie Catt attended the unveiling event on May 13, 2023 and was beaming with pride for the accomplishments of her granddaughter.
“I always told my kids and my grandkids to talk to people how you want to be talked to. Use kind words. Not everybody is kind and you can walk away from that. It’s hard enough out there. Watch yourselves you ladies. I always tell women to look after themselves, not just on the outside, but the inside. Talk to yourself and hear your spiritual thoughts. You have to speak for yourself, us as women. We all want to be recognized. We all want to be loved. We all want to be respected.”
Kayla’s mother Shauna Bellerose was also in attendance.
“I am so proud of you Kayla. Your work ethic is amazing and your craft is beautiful. I am so proud of the fact she has painted my mum, a residential school survivor, and I am a survivor of a survivor, and my daughter is a survivor and a thriver of us survivors. The transition is beautiful that we’ve had in our family. I think this is a beautiful portrait of my mum and I will be so happy all the years I get to come to Jasper to visit it.”
Surrounding Kayla’s grandmother are native plants to Jasper National Park and various shades of purple. Each element of the mural was chosen for its distinct meanings to Cree culture.
“The mountains are really important. They are medicine. I hope that this is what people feel when they see this mural - is the presence of medicine and healing. That is what the world needs right now, to heal and to respect women. That is the message of this mural; respect Women, respect Grandmothers, respect Mothers and respect Mother Earth.
For me, I have been on a journey of healing and reclamation for our culture and learning more about our ways as Cree people. The bright purple colour is from our ceremonies. We use purple cloth in honour of Grandmothers. I wanted it to be super bright and vibrant to represent that. Grandmothers really remind me of Mother Earth. They are the same. They are life givers. They give us so much sustenance, so I wanted to include native plants to the area. There are strawberries, juniper, muskeg tea, wild rose, tiger lilies and blueberries. It’s really important that we connect more to the lands that we live on and respect those who have been here forever.”
Thank you, Kayla, for sharing your art and your story with Jasper National Park.
To view more of Kayla’s healing art, please visit her website.
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