Inspiring Respect, Compassion, and Friendship through Art
By: Lara Unsworth '95, Head of Community Relations
At Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School (STS), we believe we all share a responsibility to help create a more equitable and inclusive society, and as our Head of School, Carol Grant-Watt says, “do good for the world”. As a school, we have a unique and powerful opportunity to create meaningful opportunities to learn, teach, and connect people.
One such opportunity presented itself during STS’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, where we had the goal of leaving a lasting legacy for future generations to learn from and enjoy. As part of our ongoing commitment to Reconciliation and deep appreciation for the amazing opportunities our students have on our beautiful campus, we wanted to create a visible tribute to the land where our campus resides, and to those who came before us. It’s one thing to talk about it, but to show it can lead to greater impact.
We engaged an incredible artist team to bring our vision to life including Keegan Starlight (painting), a well known artist from the Tsuut’ina Nation, and Michael and Claire Perks ’96 (metal statue and creative) of Little Monkey Metalworks. To make this project even more synchronistic, Claire is an STS alumna, with generational ties to the School. Also, Keegan’s father, Anthony Starlight, spent time with the artists team to advise on important symbolism to incorporate in the statue.
This dynamic team, in close consultation with STS administration, as well as several Elders and members of the Tsuut’ina and Blackfoot Nations, created an eight-foot tall steel statue, called The Sacred Circle, now installed on the STS campus, at the main entrance beside the flag poles.
On June 21, 2022, on National Indigenous Peoples Day, we celebrated The Sacred Circle, and the artists who created it. Elementary School students heard stories about how The Sacred Circle was made, and the important symbolism represented in the statue, including the child’s orange handprints placed on the statue by Keegan’s daughter, representing the important message that every child matters. Students also shared what they have been learning about Indigenous peoples, places, and experiences in our School’s continued effort to play a positive role in Canada’s path to Reconciliation.
We hope this statue inspires all who experience it to engage with others in a spirit of respect, compassion, and friendship.
Important symbolism reflected in The Sacred Circle
- The Sacred Circle statue is designed to inspire unity and remind us, that in a circle, we are all equal. No one is in front, no one is behind, no one is above, and no one is below.
- Featured in The Sacred Circle are seven eagle feathers fashioned into the shape of an Indigenous women’s headdress. This statue pays tribute to the traditional concept of ‘caretakers’, who in Indigenous communities of the past, were typically women. In today’s context, this statue honours all educators of our youth who show great leadership, courage, and strength through their calling. At STS, in all that we do, we take our role as ‘caretakers’ to heart by honouring those who came before us, and in guiding future generations.
- The feathers bowing outwards at the top represent being open to possibility and future growth.
- The seven feathers also represent:
- the Treaty 7 region
- the Seven Sacred Teachings, which are written around the base of the piece: Honesty,
- Humility, Respect, Bravery, Love, Truth, and Wisdom
- the significance of seven generations - Indigenous teachings share that one should
- learn from the history of their great-grandparents, grandparents and parents, and
- then consider the future of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as
- examining our past and envisioning the future will lead to wisdom within