Four Elders guided the design of Kihciy Maskikiy/Aakaakmotaani, a name that combines Cree and Blackfoot words, respectively, and translates to “sacred medicine/save many people.” It is a place to reflect, seek guidance and find solace.
One highlight of the garden is Alberta’s official residential school monument. The stone sculpture Mother Earth Circling: Healing from the residential school experience was created by Saddle Lake Cree Nation artist Stewart Steinhauer.
This sculpture fulfils the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 82nd Call to Action, which asks all provinces to commission monuments in their capital cities to honour the victims and survivors of residential schools. Alberta is one of the first provinces to complete this action.
“This garden is a meaningful and heartfelt symbol of Alberta’s commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. It represents the resiliency, power and beauty of Indigenous cultures and traditions, and opening it today is a fitting way to lead into the Day for Truth and Reconciliation.”
Steinhauer’s sculpture includes many Indigenous petroglyphs and symbols that create a narrative about the history of Turtle Island (North America) and the impact of residential schools. The central theme of the monument is the need for healing from that trauma.
A guide to interpreting the sculpture is available online so that visitors can appreciate its details. The monument was chosen by an Indigenous advisory panel following a call for submissions from the province.
“We are proud to share this space with the public. We must acknowledge and understand the dark legacy of Canada’s residential school system and its intergenerational effects. Many thanks to the Elders and the Indigenous panel who helped guide us, and to Stewart Steinhauer for the remarkable sculpture. This is the kind of collaboration that is key to reconciliation.”
The garden is centred around a linden tree that was planted by Indigenous and government leaders in 2021 as a symbol of reconciliation. It also includes a medicine wheel – a sacred symbol of the four directions and the interconnectedness of all things. The four quadrants of the wheel contain sweetgrass, sage, tobacco and cedar.
A series of small footprints are pressed into its main path, representing the many children who did not return home from residential schools. The garden also contains a diamond willow tree, offering logs and stone benches for seating and contemplation.
“This garden is an incredible example of the work that we are focusing on towards truth and reconciliation, and we must accomplish that by working together. When you maximize resources and collaborate, we reach that goal much faster. I am very grateful to the Government of Alberta for our ongoing partnership. We all have a large role to play in our communities, and I am thankful we were able to create this beautiful space.”
Alberta’s government is committed to walking the path toward reconciliation together in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples.