Karine Echaquan told some legends from her Atikamekw background and presented pieces of her culture to teach those present. (Natalia Fedosieieva, The Eastern Door)
The opening of the public artwork L’étreinte des temps in the Tiohtià:ke Otsirakéhne Park on the summit of Outremont last Saturday highlighted the nature of the site, the Indigenous knowledge of braiding techniques, and contributing to a diverse society.
Based on the idea of presenting braided branches of willow, from which an ancient medicine against pain was made, the sculpture symbolizes different cultures coming together, according to the designers.
Hosted by the City of Montreal, the event, in the presence of the artists Fiona Annis, Veronique La Perriere M. and Nadia Myre, and the landscape architect, Malaka Ackaoui, from Williams Asselin Ackaoui Inc. (WAA) and many visitors, started with the speech by Marie-Josée Parent, city councilor on culture and reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples.
“The artwork inaugurated today in the new park emphasizes the importance of the link between our various communities,” said Parent. “To access it, there is a path, which leads to the artwork and to the park, around the mountain. These developments make it possible to discover the natural and cultural heritage of Mount Royal.”
The artist Annis talked about harm created by the residential schools and unfair treatment of Indigenous peoples and shared her reflections on the project.
“It took several years to create this artwork,” she said, “And I consider it as a great strength and great potential of public works with the solicitous participation of many people. It is a joy to say it has been done with a collective effort.”
Her colleague Nadia Myre said creating this sculpture was about coming together, sharing ideas and working collaboratively.
“It has been a lovely ride,” she said, “Coming to meet with you (artists) and being engaged meant to me understanding the site and the space.”
Hiking and different workshops followed the ceremony to entertain people and provide more information on various issues during the activities.
The workshop on medicinal plants with herbal infusions to taste was presented by Manon Lessard, a clinical herbalist from Flora Medicina School.
“I was invited by the city to participate in the inauguration,” she said, “because there are many places that have several medicinal plants on the mountain, I can talk about the plants helping people find healthy way of treatment and connection to nature.”
Storytellers Karine Echaquan, a member of Atikamekw Nation, and Eveline Ménard, told tales from their traditions and demonstrated different handmade cultural items.
The purpose of their discussions was to start a friendly cultural exchange as well “to identify how the teachings of traditional stories are echoed in today’s world,” according to the storytellers.
“My role today is to give oral narratives,” Echaquan said, “I am teaching people how to learn from legends. Legends served us to follow morals. I tell legends about different kinds of things: family connections, good values, as well as about racism, violence, and more.”
Denise Beaulieu, one of the visitors, fell upon the inauguration by accident.
“I think it is great,” she said. “I would connect the event with reconciliation, as we have different artists from different cultures here. That is the root, because the piece of art right there is creation from different cultures.”
The Tiohtià:ke Otsirakéhne Park’s new name, which means ‘around the fire on the island where the group is separated,’ was chosen by the three Mohawk communities near Montreal for the 375th anniversary of the city.