Public art piece recognizing importance of education, truth and reconciliation unveiled at The Forks

Arts, Culture & Heritage

“Education is the New Bison” by Val Vint is the first of three art installations supported by The Foundation

For immediate release: An impressive new public art piece recognizing the integral role truth and reconciliation plays in our cultural conversation has been installed at The Forks.

“Education is the New Bison” – or “Chi-kishkayhitamihk si te li neu Biizon” – by artist Val Vint is a 12-foot piece in the shape of a bison. It is constructed out of 200 steel replicas of books and other articles by Indigenous authors and allies. It is the first in a series of three artworks commissioned by The Winnipeg Foundation for The Forks. Works by KC Adams and Jaimie Isaac will be installed in 2021. All three are being completed with the guidance of project curator Dr. Julie Nagam.

Vint believes art plays a key role in the process of truth and reconciliation in our communities.

“Unless you understand what happened, unless you understand the history, it’s difficult to understand what is going on in our society right now. When we think about murdered and missing Indigenous women, or Indigenous people living in poverty, there’s a reason for that,” Vint says. “The piece is situated very close to where my Great Great Grandfather, Elzear Goulet’s body was pulled out of the river after he had been stoned to death for his role in the Red River Resistance.”  

The bison is a significant animal to Indigenous cultures, explains Vint. “Bison, at one time, was the animal that provided everything: food, shelter and tools. Now education is what does that.”

The covers of the books which make up the bison are made from weathered steel and the three open pages are stainless steel. Quotes engraved on the open pages include:

On the bison’s forehead: “The only way tradition can be carried on is to keep inventing new things.” – Robert Davidson (a Haida artist)

On the open book on the bison’s left shoulder: “My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.” – Louis Riel

On the open book on the bison’s right shoulder: “EDUCATION is what got us here, and EDUCATION is what will get us out.” – Senator Murray Sinclair

“The Winnipeg Foundation is honoured to support the three public artworks at The Forks, which recognize the integral role truth and reconciliation plays in our nation’s collective journey forward, while paying homage to the exchanges of compassion upon which Manitoba was founded,” says Rick Frost, CEO of The Winnipeg Foundation. “As Winnipeg’s Public Arts Policy states, public art ‘gives voice to community and builds relationships between diverse groups.’ Calls for equity and justice are rising to levels not heard in generations. We must educate ourselves on our history and make space for voices that have in the past been marginalized. These three public artworks are one way The Foundation is working to realize its vision of, ‘a Winnipeg where community flourishes for all.’”

The other two works of art are also focused on truth and reconciliation. Adams’ piece, called “Friendship,” tackles the historical relationship between Indigenous communities and settlers. It will be a concrete sculpture of the spirit Wesukechak (Cree) and the wolf, and will be located at the Peace Meeting Site, close to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Isaac’s piece will be called “The Eighth and Final Fire.” It will feature eight spherical globes, internally lit by strong solar panels of varying colours. It recognizes the Seven Fires prophecies of the Anishinaabe, which foretells the coming of settlers on Turtle Island and the complexity of the relationships throughout history. It will be located at the MMIWG monument, close to the Oodena Celebration Circle.

The $500,000 investment for the three works of art comes as part of The Winnipeg Foundation’s ongoing Green Spaces Strategy, which has seen the revitalization of parks and other public spaces throughout the downtown, including the Saint-Boniface Belvédère. The three artists are the co-creators of Niimaamaa, which was also supported in part by The Foundation and is located at Niizhoziibean (formerly South Point) at The Forks.

The Winnipeg Foundation is For Good. Forever. We help people give back to our shared community by connecting generous donors with Causes they care about For Good. We’re are an endowment-based public foundation, so gifts are pooled and invested, and the annual earnings are distributed back to the community Forever. Formed in 1921, we are proud to be the first community foundation in Canada.


Media inquiries/questions:

LuAnn Lovlin, CFRE
Director of Communications & Marketing, The Winnipeg Foundation
Email LuAnn
T: 204-944-9474 ext. 232
C: 204-781-9336

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