It was a rainy day, but that couldn't stop the bright mural unveiling ceremony that took place at École Brentwood Elementary School.

The Indigenous inspired mural was created by students at Strathmore High School (SHS) art students with guidance from Siksika Elder Darrell Breaker. The art students also worked with the Indigenous class from SHS to learn about Siksika culture and symbolism.

Melanie McEwing was one of the students that worked on the mural, and she explained some of the symbolism that went into the painting. The 7 Grandfather's teachings provide a guidance in how we should treat each other, and was a big focus for the mural.

"Each teaching is represented by an animal and offers a gift and understanding of how we are. The buffalo represents respect. The bear, courage. The wolf, humility. The beaver, wisdom. The Bigfoot, honesty. The turtle, truth. And the eagle, love," she said.

Also added were badgers, which is the Brentwood mascot. McEwing explained that this represents family, connection and community.

While the animals are a huge portion of the symbolism, they're not all there is. McEwing also spoke about the significance of the tree leaves and eagle feathers.

"The orange leaves represent every child matters, meaning that every child is important, including the ones behind and the adult survivors who are healing from the trauma of residential schools. The orange leaves and eagle feathers falling from the ground represent the discovered, unmarked graves of indigenous children."

McEwing said being a part of the mural project was a great experience.

"It was really special. It was really cool that it had some people from our community's teepees in there, it had some connections to our community and it was really nice just to incorporate some Indigenous imagery to help with teaching opportunities."

SHS art teacher Brandy Roberts said the mural is intended to both honour the Blackfoot community and be a learning tool.

"Our hope and intention was to celebrate and honour our Indigenous students and community with a mural that had imagery with significance to Blackfoot culture and teachings, that can also be used as a teaching resource," Roberts said.

As SHS and the Siksika community worked together on the mural, a sense of community and connection was created. Roberts says this connection is one of the most important parts of the project.

"Many connections were made throughout this project such as those mentioned, and between staff from Strathmore High School and Ecole Brentwood Elementary and also between the Art students of SHS and the 11 Grade 5 & 6 students from Brentwood that worked along with us, painting the mural.  The personal connections made are a valuable result of the project."

Roberts also said she learned a lot by working on this project.

"The guidance of Elder Darrell Breaker and our interim FNMI Liaison, Meagan Big Snake, and brainstorming with the Aboriginal Studies class, was an important learning opportunity and special component of the project."

The ceremony concluded with a prayer from Elder Darrell Breaker and his brother, Robert Breaker. They prayed for all the schools, students and teachers in Strathmore and Siksika nation. They also prayed for all the people in town, saying the creator will protect and bless them.

Many people attended the event, including Town of Strathmore deputy mayor Jason Montgomery, Golden Hills School Division associate superintendent Jeff Grimsdale, GHSD director of learning Christina Hoover, Robert and Audrey Breaker, and Darrell and Rosemary Breaker.


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