NIPAWIN — A number of Nipawin businesses and organizations chipped in funds to commission a new mural downtown painted by local artist Horton Severight.
The mural depicts the Seven Sacred Teachings. Also known as the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers, they are a set of teachings on human conduct towards others.
These include love, the gift from the eagle; respect, the gift from the buffalo; courage, carried by the bear; honesty, carried by the Sabe or Sasquatch; wisdom, carried by the beaver; humility, carried by the wolf; and truth, carried by the turtle.
The mural, spearheaded by Reconciliation Nipawin and installed by the L.P Miller Comprehensive School’s carpentry class, was unveiled Dec. 9 outside Family Bakery.
“I think we were missing some Indigenous representation in town just in the buildings and the signs,” said Denise Blomquist, Reconciliation Nipawin’s co-chair. “We thought what would be good to add and there were a few different options, but this one was perfect.”
Seeing the side of Family Bakery was a “blank canvas,” Reconciliation Nipawin approached the business which Blomquist said didn’t hesitate to host a space for the mural.
Severight said he didn’t learn about his own Cree and Saulteaux heritage growing up, beginning to teach himself and explore the culture only four or five years ago. He began painting on canvas three years ago.
“I’ve never been taught anything about Native art, I’m all self-taught about everything,” Severight said.
“I try to combine my Cree culture and my late dad’s Saulteaux culture and try to combine everything into paintings of different styles and my own styles at the same time.”
For this piece he used Liquitex acrylics on primed white boards. The mural was designed with six different sections, each one mixing in different symbolism of the teachings.
“The reason why I picked the seven teachings is any other teacher, a Native teacher or Native artist, would probably do the same thing because it’s almost like the Ten Commandments,” Severight said. “Everyone knows the Ten Commandments pretty much, and that’s basically what the same thing is about the seven teachings and Mother Earth.”
In addition to many of the animals present in the seven teachings, Severight included an owl, which he said was because of its different meanings, as it isn’t part of the seven teachings.
“A lot of Native tribes don’t like the owl because it’s a bad omen, it’s bad luck since it’s supposed to be the messenger of death, whereas other tribes say the owl is a messenger of knowledge of death. There’s an old saying that if there’s an owl hanging around your house, or farm, or always around you and your family they’re sending a warning.”
The buffalo is one of the animals not present in the finished piece, which Severight said was due to tradition dictating that it should be facing north, which wasn’t possible with this installation.
Businesses and organizations that contributed funds to the project include Cumberland College, Diamond North Credit Union, and Lake Country Co-op as well as a SaskCulture grant.
Reconciliation Nipawin is a group of community members working on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action.