An intricately painted wall of art is intended to trigger a conversation — one that’s rooted in a dark past within the Indigenous community.
Indigenous people are over-represented in Canadian prisons. John Howard Society (JHS) statistics show 38 per cent of those in the justice system are Indigenous.
JHS staff recruited two artists to design a mural on the society’s new building in southeast Calgary.
The massive piece is in perfect view of men living in a nearby residence, a temporary home for those reintegrating into society.
Artists Kalum Teke Dan and Ryan Jason Allen Willert created the mural.
“A lot of our warriors are in jail and during colonization our warriors had nothing left to do. They couldn’t hunt, had to stay on reserve and had their children taken away. And, with all this power… strong and nothing for them to do,” Willert said.
“I hope this mural inspires them to learn their culture and work on their healing so we can get our warriors back.”
“My idea is that I want them to feel proud and this represents the past, present and future and this is a second chance moving on to a brighter future,” Dan said.
JHS’s executive director, Leslie McMechan, said she hopes the art will help to break down barriers for their clients.
“It gives me goosebumps when I think about the eagle representing so many important things and it represents what we feel is important to us as an organization,” McMechan said.
“It’s grounded in Blackfoot tradition and we are on Blackfoot land and we want to honor that in a sacred way.”
As part of CJHS’s commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, the agency is working towards reducing the number of Indigenous people in Canada’s prisons by providing evidence-based, trauma-informed supports combined with cultural safety which will reduce re-offending.