Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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First Nations art installation created for River Landing

By Charles Hamilton, The Starphoenix

Visitors to River Landing will soon be greeted by a $320,000 commemorative piece of art celebrating First Nations and British cooperation during the War of 1912.

The installation, donated to the city by the Whitecap Dakota First Nation, will be located at the second roundabout at River Landing, near the Farmer's Market.

It's meant to showcase the unprecedented alliance between First Nations and European settlers during the War of 1812, First Nations leaders say.

"If we lost the war, we wouldn't have a Canadian flag flying," said Whitecap Dakota Chief Darcy Bear.

"There would be an American flag flying. Obama would be our president; we would have their economy. Instead, because of that alliance, we have a free country."

The monument was revealed Tuesday to city council's planning and operations committee, where city councillors greeted it with enthusiasm.

"We have a growing young aboriginal population, and when you see these things on the streets around you, it helps you feel at home," Coun. Charlie Clark said.

Local artists Jean-Sebastien Gauthier, Adrian Stimson and Ian Happy Grove designed the piece, which includes a series of bronze sculptures of historical figures exchanging gifts and promises in the spirit of alliance with the British. The gift-giving scene takes place within the poles of a bronze teepee. The installation will be bordered by four interpretive panels that tell the story of the War of 1812.

Mayor Don Atchison said he's in favour of the project, but expressed concern about its location in the roundabout, arguing that drivers may inadvertently crash into the expensive piece of art.

He was assured that concrete benches surrounding the teepee will be sufficient to protect the art from errant vehicles.

While the First Nation donated the art to the city, the city will cover the cost of installing it - about $15,000.

The monument still needs final approval from city council, but if all goes according to plan, it will be installed this fall.

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