Guide to Exploring ᐄᓃᐤ (ÎNÎW) River Lot 11∞
In the Fall of 2018, Edmonton opened its first Indigenous art park situated in Queen Elizabeth Park, complete with breath taking views of the river valley and downtown Edmonton. It is called înîw (EE-nu), which in Cree means “I am of the Earth”— Indigenous peoples are very connected to land, so this name is very fitting. înîw sits on the historic river lot which was originally owned by Joseph MacDonald, a Métis man.
The park was created in partnership with the City of Edmonton, Confederacy of Treaty No. 6 First Nations, Métis Nation of Alberta, the Edmonton Arts Council and Indigenous artists. Here you will find six art installations, created by Indigenous artists who were asked to create pieces “inspired by this land”.
When you first arrive, you see the Treaty Acknowledgement and înîw welcome rocks. The rocks tell the story of the Cree word înîw (EE-nu), an ode to the ancestral lands of the Indigenous groups who were here prior, primarily the Cree.
Reign by Mary Anne Barkhouse
One of the first art installments you see is a contemporary piece called Reign by Mary Anne Barkhouse. Her piece reflects on how much change this land has experienced over the years. In the piece, you find the Albertasauras, Edmontosauras, coyote and hare. All these animals have called this area home at one point in time. Reign reflects on the adaptive nature of the land and original inhabitants of the area.
Isoktew by Amy Malbeuf
Isoktew by Amy Malbeuf is an installment you cannot miss. The piece is created from large sculptures that spell out Iskotew in Cree syllabics. The word iskotew means fire. The néhiyawewin word for women, iskwew, is derived from the word iskotew, and therefore, the piece also reflects on the sacred abilities of women. The colours of the piece are based on colours seen both historically and in contemporary works. They are meant to reflect on the coherency and vibrancy of Indigenous cultures.
Mikikwan by Duane Linklater
In the park you will also find Mikikwan, a concrete sculpture by Duane Linklater. Mikikwan is a reproduction of a 9, 000 year old buffalo hide scraper from the archives at the Royal Alberta Museum. Historically, and even today, hide scrapers were used to remove the hair and flesh from a hide. Mikikwan is a reminder of the importance of the buffalo itself, as well as a reminder of the ceremony, stories, languages and cultures that used the buffalo hide scraper. It also reminds us of the work of Indigenous women and the labour that was put into the land by its ancestors.
Mamohkamatowin (Helping One Another) by Jerry Whitehead
Furthest to the North you will find Mamohkamatowin (Helping One Another) by Jerry Whitehead. Mamohkamatowin is created by two turtles, facing opposite directions. Just like the name (Helping One Another) implies, this piece was created by artists, artisans and students coming together to layer the mosaic tiles. One of the most special things about this piece was how it was created. While the tiles were being laid down, students from Amiskwaciy Academy had the chance to talk and engage with elders and knowledge keepers to hear stories of the land. The piece reflects on all the nations, Indigenous and settler, that have helped shape the history of Amiskwaciy Waskahikan.
Preparing to Cross the Sacred River by Marrianne Nicolson
Petroglyphs and stone paintings were used in Indigenous cultures to pass down stories. Preparing to Cross the Sacred River by Marrianne Nicolson is covered with images representing ancient and sacred Indigenous beliefs and the relationship to the land. This piece references the North Saskatchewan River Valley banks, wildlife and activities of Indigenous peoples. Its artwork is representative of beading and showcases the importance of reconnecting to ancient beliefs to tell the story of how people came to this area and how to act on the land.
Pehonan by Tiffany Shaw-Collinge
Last, but certainly not least is Pehonan by Tiffany Shaw-Collinge. Pehonan in Cree means the gathering or waiting place. The installment is representative of an amphitheatre, where one’s perception can change depending on where you are sitting. Tiffany created this piece to be representative of the past and future. The further back you sit, the greater your perspective is and the closer you are to the past. The front, which represents being closer to the future, doesn’t have the greater perspective available. This is representative of the oral history of this area and the ways stories may change depending on one’s proximity to the source. Every layer of the structure is made from different materials. The top layers, representing the past, are made of traditional materials, and the bottom layers, representing the future, are created out of more contemporary materials.
This park also has one of the best views of the city! It is a place of gathering, story sharing and history. What are you waiting for? Start exploring.
About the Author
Mackenzie Brown is First Nations Cree from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, currently residing in Amiskwaciwaskahikan, Edmonton. She is a performer, drummer, tourism entrepreneur, philanthropist and advocate for at-risk youth in the Edmonton area. Mackenzie and her mom perform as “Warrior Women”. They drum and teach around Alberta for the Northern Alberta Teachers Conference, the annual Jasper Dark Skies Festival, Youth Dream Catchers Conference, Canada Day, Aboriginal Day festivities and more. Along with drumming, Mackenzie is also an avid acrylic artist and traditional First Nations crafts artisan. Her art has been featured in the Pump House Gallery, the Edson Gallery Museum, the Gray Gallery Grant MacEwan, recognized for the Alberta Indian Arts and Crafts Award of 2017, featured for the Alberta Business Competition 2017 and sold to people travelling world wide at Jasper Park Lodge. She is also the recent recipient of the 2019 Esquao Award for Children's Future.