City of Calgary slammed for lack of Indigenous consultation before buying Bowfort Towers art - APTN NewsAPTN News

City of Calgary slammed for lack of Indigenous consultation before buying Bowfort Towers art


Tamara Pimentel
APTN National News

The City of Calgary is being slammed for its lack of Indigenous consultation around the purchase of an art installation called the Bowfort Towers.

The new piece of public art is supposed to be inspired by Blackfoot culture – is not impressing the Blackfoot community.

The Bowfort Towers is Calgary’s new gateway to the city.

“This really does look like burial platforms, said Blackfoot artist Adrian Stimson. “A lot of us are still shaking our heads thinking ‘is this the best thing to have as a welcoming into the city of Calgary?'”

It’s not finished yet, but the $500,000 project is supposed to represent the Blackfoot culture.

The four stages of life and the four seasons.

But for the Indigenous community in southern Alberta, it looks like a burial site.

“Blackfoot, before colonization, we buried our people in trees. they had them on a platform or tied to the limbs of a tree.

The towers were created by New York artist Del Geist.

Stimson, from the Siksika Nation, said a piece of art as important as an entrance to a city should be created by a local artist.

“Given that this is Blackfoot territory, given that it’s Calgary, it would have been nice to think that the committee would have thought that this would have been a wonderful opportunity to consider Blackfoot artists, Indigenous artists for this project,” said Stimson.

The city said with a price as high as a half million dollars, an open competition is required.

Michelle Robinson, Alberta chair for the Indigenous People’s Commission, and a candidate for city council in the upcoming election, said the policy should be changed.

“The city thought they were doing an honour to the Blackfoot culture without Blackfoot consultation,” she said.

“We’re showcasing the gaps basically in their policy when it comes to consultation.”

Geist said he consulted with Blackfoot elders about the Bowfort Towers but would not give any names.

“We’re in a time of reconciliation,” said Stimson. “The city of Calgary has been vocal about how they want to support that but I often think the words or intent don’t often match what’s going on.”

While some say new public art takes some getting used to, Stimson said driving past the gateway to Calgary won’t be easy.

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2 Responses to “City of Calgary slammed for lack of Indigenous consultation before buying Bowfort Towers art”

    marnie smith August 13, 2017 at 4:03 pm #

    The issue raises many questions, not only about hiding ethics and respect behind policy but also about cultural appropriation, cultural ignorance and what does it mean to TRULY HONOUR the people whose land now exists for another? This article is a glimpse into the complex world of Indigenous art, and the politics of representation which is always shadowed by prejudice and racism. Geist should be pressed to admit that he did not in fact consult, in a meaningful way, with the very people he is representing. The committee should be taken to task for not inviting the Blackfoot Nation to put forwards an artist into the competition and giving them the “heads-up” that their culture would be “smashed-in” by their disrespectful decisions. The art itself should have been questioned as its symbolism is so violently leaning towards the PASSING of a once strong Nation giving way to MODERNITY THE CONQUEROR. This is shades of THE SPIRIT SINGS. It is sad that Albertans have learned nothing from this space in time and history.

    Moen August 8, 2017 at 11:18 pm #

    2017 and still noone has decency to consult with Peoples that they claim to ‘represent’…Heaven forbid they might actually know something about their own Art and it’s representations….so disheartening…