Earthwords is a coauthored site specific work done at the St Norberts Art Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. We were artists in residence at the centre where our research took us in the direction of geographical changes in territory measurement through the history of the area. We were introduced to a young girl Selena and both her grandmother and great grandmother. Her great, great, great, grandfather was the young boy put on a horse to warn Louis Riel that the British Survey Team were coming. We created an offering vessel of local alabaster for Selena and together with her family went to the point that Louis Riel resisted the British and burnt offerings together. This experience and research directed the following works which deal with the demarcation of territory in the region. Both works responded to the cultural and historical mapping of the area. The Site for these works were done in a burnt out Trappist Monastery now the location of St. Norbert’s Art Centre.
“The first work “Migratory” was done with soil from the area pushed through a language template to form the word. Migratory is an earth notion of many Indigenous peoples and their relationship to the environment. A relationship that denies notions of ownership and is a symbiotic exchange within nature. The language site lasted only a short while for the elements of wind and rain soon redirected and dispersed it.
The second text ‘HBC 80 713.43’ was a reference to the next overlay of settlement established by the French fur traders who came into the area intermarrying with Indigenous women and later became recognized as the ‘Metis’. With this new settlement the relationship to the land changed in that it was then orchestrated by the Hudson Bay Company who would parcel out areas of land connected to the waterways and referred to as river lots. Each lot was approximately 2 miles by 4 miles that emerged along river systems allowing for continued access to the movement of the rivers but as well access to agricultural lands and development. The beginning of land parceling and ownership occurs. The earth text consisted of sawdust, ignited with kerosene and literally branding the earth with fire and as a consequece, establish ownership.
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