Tsuut’ina nation speaks out on controversial Bowfort Towers, and offers some expertise for the future
First Nation adds voice to chorus of criticism, offers expertise
Tsuut’ina First Nation is criticizing the city for not having Indigenous consultation in the controversial Bowfort Towers public art project, while offering assistance moving forward.
The sculpture — four towers of steel beams cradling Rundle rock — was unveiled Aug. 3 and almost immediately became controversial. Many are voicing concerns over the $500,000 total price tag, the location along the Trans-Canada Highway on the city’s west side, lack of local talent, and the similarities between the piece and traditional Blackfoot burial structures.
Tsuut’ina Nation weighed in on the controversy Tuesday afternoon, saying they waited until now to have the time to thoughtfully review the exhibit and its background.
“Tsuut’ina believes that attempting to reflect First Nations art or symbolism in the absence of collaboration with local First Nations artists and elders is not reflective of other recent steps by Calgary City Hall to respect Treaty 7 Nations,” Kevin Littlelight, spokesman for Tsuut’ina, said in a news release. “These steps have included progress on executing on the terms of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the raising of Treaty 7’s flag at City Hall. Tsuut’ina will gladly supply elders and cultural experts to assist in determining what the next steps are for this exhibit — an exhibit that is causing serious concern among both First Nations and non-First Nations people in Calgary and area.”
Chief Joseph Weasel Child of Siksika First Nation said he will address the issue in an upcoming meeting with Mayor Naheed Nenshi, which was scheduled before the unveiling of the artwork. He also plans to meet with other Blackfoot chiefs before addressing the issue publicly.
Evelyn Good Striker with the city’s Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee, which has provided the city with an 84-page Indigenous Policy Framework, said the committee was not consulted at any time during the creation of the latest public artwork.
Madeleine King, chair of the public art board, said when the call for proposals went out in 2015, the board confirmed the appropriate process had been gone through.
“Our input was this was a very significant gateway welcoming people into Calgary and so we hoped that great care would be taken over the public art,” said King.
When asked if the Blackfoot people were consulted during that process, King said to her understanding, there definitely was “some sort of consultation,” but she does not know “the nature of it, who, or how many, or over what period of time.”
In the meantime, city hall has so far declined to comment on the controversy. On Saturday, Nenshi told Postmedia he would provide comments on Tuesday. However, the mayor was unavailable on Tuesday.
Tsuut’ina believes that attempting to reflect First Nations art or symbolism in the absence of collaboration with local First Nations artists and elders is not reflective of other recent steps by Calgary City Hall to respect Treaty 7 Nations.” Kevin Littlelight, tsuut’ina spokesman