Artist hopes sculpture will lead to important conversations about treaty

December 5, 2019 | Society, Arts & Culture

I am one individual and I don’t have a profound message of my own, but I’m so grateful that the Rock Grandfather uses me as a communication device. The bears that I carve are spiritual beings who help humans bond to Earth. That is the first role of the bear – to care for the Earth’s healing when there are imbalances.

When people see Mother Bear Prays for Earth Healing, there are two layers to what I hope they will think about. The first and deepest layer is about exclusion, and that idea is connected to the women’s pipe ceremony where Mother Bear is a metaphor for the idea that there are no excluded human beings. All humans are welcome. We all belong. There's nobody here who isn’t supposed to be here.

The second layer is that we humans, whether we're willing to admit it or not, are causing a lot of distress for the planet. I work in stone and granite, so I’m always thinking about the 10,000-year mark. What will this carving look like then? I say that the Rock Grandfather is hoping that people will set aside their differences and come together, that they will look at the health of the Earth in a very simple, self-centred kind of way. This is our home. What sense does it make that we would destroy our own home? 

The Indigenous version of the treaty story is not widely known, but is very beautiful and may be a source of inspiration during our current moment of social chaos. Everyone can benefit from hearing the Indigenous meaning of the treaty, and I look forward to the teachings about treaty that will be tied to the sculpture.

A marker on its own is important and may arouse people’s curiosity, but it doesn’t actually give the full message. That message has to come from a living human being. It has to be a conversation, a relationship, a dialogue. 

– Stewart Steinhauer, Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Treaty Six Territory

Stewart Steinhauer is the artist who carved Mother Bear Prays for Earth Healing, MacEwan University’s Treaty 6 marker placed just outside the new kihêw waciston Indigenous centre.  


“We weren’t talking about Indigenization with this project, we were living it.”

New home for kihêw waciston is grounded in the openness, learning and trust that Indigenization demands.

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