In the spirit of truth and reconciliation, a new Indigenous public art installation in Almonte pays tribute to the Seven Grandfather Teachings of the Algonquin Anishinaabe.
The opening ceremony and celebration for The Seven Gifts was held in Riverfront Park on Sept. 17. The event featured smudging and drumming ceremonies, prayer offerings, as well as stories from elders, the artists involved in the project, and a traditional Indigenous feast.
“The Seven Gifts project is, in my view, one of the most significant undertakings of our Bicentennial year,” states Mayor Christa Lowry. “This installation provides a place of quiet reflection, a place to gather, a place to learn, and a place to celebrate. It is also a tangible coming together and signal of the relationships and friendships we are working to renew in our community.”
The initiative is a project led by Mississippi Mills All My Relations. The artistic concept, design and creation has been based on “two-eyed seeing,” bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists including Indigenous wood carver Nish Nabie, stone sculptor Deborah Arnold, mould maker Darlene McLeod and bronze fabricator Dale Dunning. The collaboration recognized and valued each of their ideas, values and skills equally, resulting in one mind. The installation features a 25-foot-wide circle of seven marble stones, each approximately five feet in height. Each stone supports a bronze totem animal representing one of the gifts. Completing the sacred space is native plantings of Indigenous significance, interpretive signage and a commemorative plaque.
“The Seven Gifts offers a starting place to learn more about Indigenous wisdom and values,” says Bev Hunter of Mississippi Mills All My Relations. “Events such as this will help educate us through experiencing the sacred singing and drumming, sitting with elders as they smoke their pipes in prayer, and sampling Indigenous foods.”
This Mississippi Mills Bicentennial project was made possible through financial support from the Canada Communities Revitalization Fund, the Canadian Heritage Legacy Fund, the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, the Anglican Foundation of Canada, The United Church of Canada, Lanark County, Almonte Civitan Club, and many generous community donations. Partners include the Municipality of Mississippi Mills, Carebridge Community Support, St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Sivarulrasa Gallery, Almonte United Church, Mississippi Valley Textile Museum and Age-Friendly North Lanark.
The Seven Gifts is also a feature of the Almonte Wellness Trail, an interactive, multi-generational project enhancing Mississippi Mills’ existing public recreational spaces.