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First Nation Art Garden

The Ways of Knowing Partnership Turtle Island Conservation Programme (TIC) respectfully shares the hopes and goals of First Nation partners in our commitment to the preservation of wildlife and wild places. TIC partners with First Nation communities to incorporate Traditional Knowledge into turtle and wetland conservation initiatives. The First Nation Art Garden.was developed to share the distinct origin story and worldview of First Nation people in North America. This project invited Aboriginal artists from the Haudenosaunee ( Mohawk) and Anishinaabe ( Ojibway) communities to submit visual concepts that captured the Traditional Knowledge understanding of the “Creation Story” as told by many First Nations people of North America (known as Turtle Island) since time immemorial.

The garden features three distinct pieces of artwork made possible through the generous support of Aboriginal Funds for Species at Risk, the Museum Assistance Program and the Toronto Zoo. Your garden journey begins with a welcoming sign provided by William Monague titled “Tranquility”. William Anthony Monague is a member of the Beausoleil First Nation of Christian Island, Ontario. He is a self taught artist who has been exhibiting since early 1970 and received a lifetime recognition award for his works. His expertise includes carving, painting and quill work. The painting on the greeting sign sets the tone of the garden with his beautiful artwork which began in August of 2001 as a depiction of two magnificent Georgian Pines in a scenic setting. The painted turtles embody the symbol of healing and reconstruction of Mother Earth. The Eagle represents the Ojibway belief of the messenger answering our prayers: giving the gift of strength and protection.

The stunning 4 x 6 ft stonework sculpture by David General shares his vision of the Creation Story based on his Haudenosaunee ancestry. He is a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River near Brantford, Ontario. His stonework sculpture is titled “Turtle Island” and depicts the geographical landscape of North America using the shape of the turtle with marble, slate and limestone. The artwork also visually highlights the importance of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge concepts such as the indigenous lunar calendar (13 Moons teaching) and turtle clan systems that are commonly recognized in many First Nations communities. Doreen Stevens is Anishinaabe from Kitgan Zibi, Quebec. Her work is titled “The Creation Story Mosaic” and was inspired from a dream. It is a mammoth 4 x 8 foot mosaic filled with a myriad of colours and imagery. It depicts the Algonkian Creation Story and its importance to Anishnaabe people incorporating the 4 elements, original spirit being Mishi Pishoo (Great Water Lynx), wampum belts (original treaty agreements) and the importance of water (the lifeblood of Mother Earth).

Complementing the artwork are trees and plants that hold medicinal, ceremonial and sustenance significance to the people of Turtle Island. The First Nation Art Garden respectfully acknowledges the wealth of knowledge accumulated by Aboriginal People. We are pleased that we can share this worldview and that of our wonderful artists with our Zoo visitors. The garden is located near the Zoo’s popular America’s pavilion.

For the press release "The Zoo Unveils Unique First Nation Art Garden" click here