Two Cree artists received some help while creating a piece that addresses Indigenization and decolonization as part of Indigenous Achievement Week at the University of Saskatchewan.

Ruth Cuthand and Vanessa Hyggen have been working on the collaborative art project called “mîkisak ikwa asiniyak ǀ Beads and Stone ǀ Lii rasaad aykwa lii rosh” at the top of the ramp in the Arts Building on the U of S campus.

Cuthand says the project began with the breaking of a slab of Tyndall stone this past Monday which included a pipe ceremony, speeches and feast.

“Several buildings on campus feature Tyndall stone,” Cuthand says “We broke it because we wanted it to be a symbol of breaking the status quo and allowing Indigenous thoughts to enter.”

The broken pieces were then integrated with beadwork which Cuthand says lots of people have come to help with.

“We want people to bead with us and to contribute their work, and their voices, in celebration of new spaces for learning and leading.”

“Breaking the stone represents decolonization and the creation of space within the institution for Indigenous traditions, languages and ways of knowing,” Hyggen adds. “Tyndall stone is representative of the university, beads are representative of Indigenous cultures and the material we will use to bond the beads and stone together—resin—represents the Indigenization process.”

The finished piece will be unveiled on this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is March 21.

“Created by this unique group of artists, Beads and Stone gives voice and substance to a vision for a new kind of university in an extraordinary and compelling image,” Jeremy Morgan, interim managing director of the University of Saskatchewan Art Galleries, says.
A screening of a film captured by Indigenous artists and filmmaker Marcel Petit will also take place at the unveiling.

The film will document the creation process of the art project and will feature a poem written by Cree-Dene-Métis poet Zoey Roy.

“A cornerstone of the College of Arts and Science’s new strategic plan to 2025 is to Indigenize and decolonize the college by addressing racism and promoting understanding,” Dirk de Boer, acting vice-dean Indigenous for the College of Arts and Science, says “Supporting the creation of interactive art projects such as Beads and Stone can help us move toward reaching our goals.”

The five-day Indigenous Achievement Week wrapped up on Friday.

“Our college is the home of the arts on campus, and this is a very important role,” Peta Bonham-Smith, dean of the College of Arts and Science, says. “The arts can help us start conversations about important social issues. They challenge our ideas and push us to do better. The arts are also inclusive and collaborative. They promote understanding and help us build relationships. That is what I hope the Beads and Stone project will achieve.”


(PHOTO: From left to right, student Kenneth Cook, artist Ruth Cuthand, College of Arts and Science Dean Peta Bonham-Smith and University of Saskatchewan Vice-Provost Indigenous Engagement Jacqueline Ottmann prepare to drop a slab of Tyndall stone outside the Arts Building on Feb. 4. Photo courtesy of Chris Putnam)