Iini Bison Heart (2020)
Iini Bison Heart pays homage to the Great Plains Bison, known as Iini to the Blackfoot people. The bison are central to Blackfoot culture and history; they once roamed these lands and these very hills. Blackfoot stories and modern archeology confirm that this area was once a bison kill and processing site, utilized by Indigenous tribes across time. Commissioned by Trinity Development Group, Blackfoot artist Adrian Stimson felt that the bison best represented the history of this area. Bison are resilient. The slaughter of the bison is a fact of our history; it was a deliberate and brutal attempt to destroy not only the bison but also the people who relied on them for almost everything. The great slaughter to clear the plains changed the landscape and the way of life for many Indigenous peoples. The bison were on the brink of extinction, yet they survived and are being brought back. The history of the bison is analogous to Blackfoot being, even now the bison are everything; they are the source of inspiration, imagination and life. Iini Bison Heart is a monument to the Bison. We remember their power and pay our respect for their being.
Iini Bison Heart stands upon a plinth that reimagines Blackfoot petroglyphs, a symbolic language that is used to record visions or historical events. Here, the past, present and future are symbolically imagined in the four directions.
EAST, this face depicts historical events that shape the present and future. Pleiades is a star cluster that is depicted on many Blackfoot tipis, it tells the story of neglected boys, it reminds us to care for our children. The Bison in the sky is to remind us of their power and that their spirit surrounds us. The comet is an omen, of events that shaped the future. Small pox, horse culture, Treaty 7 between the Blackfoot and Crown. Siksika, the first Anglican missionaries and residential school are moments in time. The railroad tracks speak to imperial expansion and clearing of the plains. The Bison skulls represent the great slaughter. In 1832, the first priest came onto Blackfoot territory. The circle represents a puffball, a medicine of the Blackfoot and often-painted on tipis.
NORTH, we see the sky spirits, birds, storms, coming of the airplane and motor vehicles. The Métis people. Oil exploration. Cattle industry. Tipi villages, beginning of First Nations reserves. As long as the Grass grows.
WEST, Ursa Major or The Big Dipper is a star cluster that is depicted on the flaps of Blackfoot tipis, it tells the story of Bear Woman, it is a story of love, betrayal, anger and transformation. The sun, Natosi, is our creator, our life. As long as the sun shines. The eagle, sacred bird. Mountains and hills to the west. Stoney Nakoda Nation. Crown, European settlers. As long as the rivers flow. Piikani Nation. Elk. Beaver. Move from Tipis to square homes. Prophesy of the fragile tree, a story of future political realities.
SOUTH, The North star which is closely associated with the Morning Star (Venus), is a story that relates how the sun dance came to be, a sacred ceremony of the Blackfoot, it is often painted on the back top of the tipi. The birds and sky spirits. Kainai Nation. The five tipi’s representing the five tribes who signed Treaty 7. Tsuu T’ina Nation. The Cross. The return of the Bison. Otter and earth medicines.
Iini Bison Heart is a gathering space, a site to contemplate and imagine the majesty of the bison, it is a place of stories, a place for conciliation, a place to begin a journey of coming to know the Bison, the Blackfoot and the lands we all now dwell upon.
Time/ Blackfoot physics conclusion…Somehow to add something about realizing the interconnectedness of all, time, the past and now, then now and the future, to bring forward our sense of honour and respect in relation to our actions now. Through this contemplation we can only see how what we do today will ripple through time and affect those who come after us. To use the past to protect the future…