Redeveloped West Harbour site to highlight Indigenous artwork in Hamilton

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Published September 14, 2023 at 1:59 pm

COURTESY OF CITY OF HAMILTON
COURTESY OF CITY OF HAMILTON

Five 40-foot panels are garnished with thousands of colourful glass beads signifying traditional Indigenous teachings and Hamilton’s rich biodiversity.

Hamilton will unveil its latest public art by a local Indigenous artist in honour of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation at West Harbour’s James Street North Plaza, which is part of the redevelopment of the waterfront on Piers 5 to 7, on Sept. 30.

Entitled All Our Relations, the City said the “culturally significant” public art was created by Cree and Métis artist Angela DeMontigny, who led the project, and the artist team Paull Rodrigue Glass, Cobalt Connects, Lafontaine Iron Werks Inc. and EXP.

“I hope to remind people when they visit the Hamilton waterfront, of the intrinsic and interdependent relationship we have with Mother Earth, the natural world: the water, the plants, trees and medicines, and the animal world,” said DeMontigny, the lead Indigenous artist, who noted the art was also inspired by the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, a greeting  originating from traditional Indigenous ceremony. “This also includes the Spirit World, the Sky Beings, the 4 Sacred Winds, our Grandfather the Sun, Grandmother Moon, and our Ancestors the Stars. I also wanted to acknowledge all the Indigenous Ancestors who have historically called this area home for millennia – from the Neutral, Anishnabek, and Huron nations and more recently, the Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas.”

DeMontigny said her work pays homage to Hamilton’s location within the Niagara Escarpment, a world UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with a rich biodiversity of rivers, lakes, waterfalls and forests that support numerous animal species and has the oldest forest ecosystem and trees in eastern North America.

“I have chosen to represent just a few of these species in this artwork for the public to enjoy when visiting or living near the Hamilton waterfront,” she wrote on the City’s website. “We must acknowledge, give thanks and protect all our precious, natural resources so that we can ALL continue to live and thrive not only in this beautiful area but on this incredible planet which is our mother. Water is Life.”

The event will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at West Harbour at the foot of James Street North, north of Guise Street. It will feature Indigenous music, food and ceremony as well as remarks by Indigenous leaders, City leaders and DeMontigny.

A volunteer citizen jury selected “All Our Relations” in December 2019 with the intention for the public artwork to be “a beacon” marking the entrance to the West Harbour and the City’s historic connection with water as well as natural, recreational and industrial elements.

Sept. 30 marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day. The day honours the lost children and survivors of the residential school system in Canada, and recognizes the painful history and its ongoing trauma and effects on Indigenous communities.

Wearing an orange shirt on Sept. 30 shows “support and commitment to reconciliation, inclusion and anti-racism.”

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