A traditional Métis story used to teach values of honesty and sharing is being shared once again for Truth and Reconciliation during Medicine Stories/Maskihkîy Âcimowin.
The installation, which runs May 27 to June 21, features a 12-foot steel tree based on The Giving Tree story. The tree, placed in the 118 Avenue and 92 Street grassy space, will be used for Truth and Reconciliation through storytelling, songs, and art.
As the story goes, a family stops on a trip for tea but realize they didn’t bring sugar. The mother asks her son to reach into the hollow of a Manitoba maple tree, where he discovers sugar, tea, tobacco, letters, flour, and moccasins. In return, the family leaves something for other travellers.
Just like in the story, the steel tree has a hollow. But instead, people can take or leave stories of reconciliation.
“It’s a metaphor of the tree being a place of gathering, sharing, healing,” said Dave Von Bieker, one of the organizers and arts chaplain of Bleeding Heart Art Space.
Lori Calkins, the team lead, a Métis woman, and an Anglican priest, said the story teaches us that “each one of us has a gift to offer.”
Medicine Stories, or Maskihkîy Âcimowin in Cree, follows up on last year’s installation about missing and murdered indigenous women. The project started last June when Bleeding Heart Art Space and the Diocese of Edmonton’s Indigenous Ministries Initiative applied for a $10,000 grant from the Anglican Foundation of Canada geared toward Truth and Reconciliation efforts.
“The Anglican Church was complicit with residential schools,” said Von Bieker.
Calkins added, “The Anglican Church is making sincere efforts to make reparation and to learn.”
Von Bieker explained the tree intrigued organizers, who learned of the story from Leah Dorion, a Métis artist, author and speaker.
“The tree is representative of the central place where the stories are shared.” Von Bieker explained anyone involved in reconciliation in some way can share their stories.
Calkins explained stories have a spiritual component. “They open us to something larger than ourselves and they open us to one another. One of the Cree words for truth means speaking from the heart. The truth teaches us to quiet our own assumptions and our own voices to listen with our heart open. Some of the elders have used that word with Truth and Reconciliation.”
“Shared stories may give people an idea. It may inspire us to do acts of reconciliation in our own lives,” Von Bieker added.
Calkins said the installation is a relationship-building project, creating a space where participants are not spectators.
“Art and story open a backdoor into our hearts and minds that only information doesn’t do. We’re hoping the installation takes down some of the censors and barriers that have come out of the colonial experience,” she said. “I’m hoping people will have their imaginations inspired on how we can live together on the land.”
Besides the tree, live events will take place from 1 to 3 pm on the Saturdays during the installation. Between those live events, people are invited to share stories.
Participants can also listen to guided audio tours on the 118 Avenue grassy space using Detour, a new cell phone app.
“Go on to the land to turn the app on. It’ll know where you are because of GPS. Specify what you want to hear about,” said Von Bieker.
After the installation is over, organizers hope to publish material from the project so people can continue to access it.
Talea is the Rat Creek Press editor. She loves sharing the stories of our diverse neighbourhoods.
MEDICINE STORIES/MASKIHKÎY ÂCIMOWIN
May 27-June 21
118 Avenue and 92 Street grassy space
Schedule and more info: https://bleedingheartart.space/medicinestories
Feature image: Artist Stephanie Medford (pictured) helped build the natural elements of the tree. Joanne Guthrie built the steel structure with design help from Marcie Rohr, Christopher Vander Hoek, and Marina Hulzenga. | Rebecca Lippiatt