This spring, the libraries at Wembley Elementary School (WES) and Helen E. Taylor School (HET) received unique Indigenous murals. Local Indigenous artist and NIHA Cultural Navigator with the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre Natascha Okimaw worked with the administration at each school to capture their ideas and visions for their murals.
When asked about the artwork that is on display in the WES library, Natascha says the school wanted the Medicine Wheel at the centre, but that she was given free artistic range for the rest. “I used the oral tradition of an elder telling the story to the youth who is dressed in an Every Child Matters t-shirt and ribbon skirt with the colours of the rainbow. Within the wheel the colours of white, yellow, red, and blue represent the nations, the four directions of north, east, south, and west, and quadrants of spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental. Within the quadrants, the four animals are represented, the buffalo, eagle, wolf, and bear, and the four traditional medicines of cedar, tobacco, sweet grass, and sage.” Natascha then finished off the mural by edging the wheel like a beaded medallion.
At HET, Natascha worked to represent the 7 Sacred Teachings with animals. She painted an eagle to represent love, a wolf for humility, a buffalo for respect, a turtle for truth, a beaver for wisdom, a bear for courage, and a sabe for honesty. “Each animal is set in their environment in a balanced way, like the Medicine Wheel. I then used the act of singing our traditional songs as the way this story is taught by the elder on the drum.”
PWPSD’s Indigenous Education Services would like to thank Natascha for sharing her gift and knowledge with students and staff, and the administration at WES and HET for arranging to have the murals be done in their schools.