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Artist Spotlight - Meet the Treaty 7 Artists Behind the 2024 Cave and Basin Mural Project

Updated: Jun 27


Returning for the third summer, The Cave and Basin Mural Project features six outstanding Treaty 7 artists and four mentors, who are also artists, bringing Indigenous history and stories to life through their mural artwork.


Located on the Cave and Basin grounds, 8x8x8 foot temporary murals stand in the summer sun, each panel telling a story of significance to the artist and the local area. The completed murals will allow all visitors to the Cave and Basin to learn about the diverse Indigenous stories, histories and experiences that live in this special place. The murals will remain on display for the remainder of the summer.


This year’s artists will include Cheyenne Bearspaw (Stoney) and Giona Smalleyes (Stoney),

Jarron Poucette (Stoney) and Kyle Kaquitts (Stoney), and Kristy North Peigan (Blackfoot) and

Brendon Many Bears (Blackfoot). Artists will be mentored by Joseph Sanchez, AJA Louden,

Bruno Canadien, and Dawn Saunders Dahl.


Read on to learn more about the artists and the meaning behind their mural artwork.


Giona Smalleyes (Stoney)


Giona Smalleyes (Stoney) stands alongside her mural artwork as part of the 2024 Cave and Basin Mural Project.
Giona Smalleyes (Stoney) stands alongside her mural artwork as part of the 2024 Cave and Basin Mural Project.

My mural is about Banff Indian Days. This celebration was and continues to be very important to Iyethka (Stoney), representing a time when they could be together. This event enabled us to be ourselves, play hand games, hold tipi races, sing and dance, share food, tell stories, and have fun.

 

I have been researching female Elders and regalia in the Whyte Museum Archives and the Glenbow Museum. The main portrait I selected is based on a photo from the Whyte Museum Archives of Mary Jane Crawler and was suggested to use by her great-grandson Travis Rider. The photo of Mary Jane appealed to me because she is wearing a sweetgrass necklace, a piece of regalia that I do not see anyone wearing today.

 

The dancers are of my younger siblings and they made all of the regalia with my mom. Harlena is wearing a jingle dress with full blue beadwork and floral designs, as this is meaningful to my family. My late grandfather, Bill Wesley also had a lot of blue beadwork in his regalia. Shylena is wearing her green traditional dress, Hardy is wearing war regalia and Harden is a grass dancer.

 

Iyethka are happy and grateful to call Banff home and the land will always be in our hearts.


About Giona


Giona Smalleyes is a Nakoda AV Club member and emerging artist, she works in film with Jarret Twoyoungmen, founder of the Nakoda AV Club. With many projects she has helped bring to life and is hard working in every field, she has had the opportunity to work with ArtsPlace twice. The first opportunity is Speed Painting with other artists in the Bow Valley community, the second is when she showcased her artwork in a mini-exhibit that Chey curated. She is inspired by many of her peers and artists she has interviewed with Jarret, thus in leading her to pursue in painting and storytelling of her own. She works with acrylic painting and canvas, has used pen and ink with color pencils. Her color palette is inspired by the pastels and soft hues of pink, purple and blues. A dreamy kind of palette. She hopes this project will help her find her own style and give her more inspiration from the mentor artists and their stories. One day she will take the lead in creating in these spaces and will inspire the younger generation that look up to her.


Cheyenne Bearspaw (Stoney)

Cheyenne Bearspaw (Stoney) stands alongside their mural artwork as part of the 2024 Cave and Basin Mural Project.
Cheyenne Bearspaw (Stoney) stands alongside their mural artwork as part of the 2024 Cave and Basin Mural Project.

In the Iyethka language, the Hot Springs mean the Healer of Life. Although I cannot share what the Iyethka have used the Hot Springs for, I wanted to depict a time when we harvested in the Park. This was and continues to be a necessity of life for the Iyethka people. There is a continued, physical presence to the Cave and Basin where we had a deep connection to the site, a connection we still have today. The water from the hot springs has external and internal medicinal properties.


This mural is in response to Stoney artist Rolan Rollinmud’s mural where there are three men depicted. Elders have told me that women are stronger than men. They carry the tribe. When the Chief leads, it is his wife making the best decision for his people.


About Cheyenne


It is Chey's dream to connect with people in a deep way through story. They do this through film, traditional tattooing, mural painting, as well as mediums such as digital drawing, photography, and sculpture. A graduate of the Earth-Line Tattoo School, Chey has a traditional tattoo practice grounded in their Nakoda traditions and shared Indigenous know ledge of ink and lines. Chey came to this project thinking about familial connections to the Stoney Nakoda people, as well as their study of pictographs and historic uses of imagery and mark making as part of their tattoo practice.


Jarron Poucette and Kyle Kaquitts (Stoney)


Jarron Poucette and Kyle Kaquitts (Stoney) stand alongside their mural artwork as part of the 2024 Cave and Basin Mural Project.

“Makoche Edaha Mini Po”- (English translation What Steam Rises From the Earth)


Iyethka (Stoney) see Sleeping Buffalo Mountain first when we travel towards Banff.  This is on our way to go to our Vision Quests. We still travel today to pray and heal our minds in the mountains at the Cave and Basin.

 

The beadwork pattern on the corners and on Sleeping Buffalo Mountain is from the Whyte Museum collection and is inspired by Catharine Whyte’s regalia. This regalia was created by Iyethka artisan Mary Kootenay and Catharine was wearing it when she received her name in ceremony in Mini Thni. There are 840 painted beads on this mural, and these colours represent the Iyethka people. Dragonflies were added to the corners to represent Stoney and are important to the mountain ecosystem.

 

Cave and Basin translated into the Iyethka language is not the best description of this sacred place. We decided that with the guidance of our uncle, Duane Mark, to name this artwork, Makoche Edaha Mini Po — translated into English means Steam Rises from the Earth. The steam takes our messages up to the Creator. Iyehtka have been here for centuries, and we will continue to be here for many more centuries to pray and heal.

 

The dark sky represents being on a vison quest, you will see the Big Dipper and all the stars. The eagle feather is one of the highest honours to receive in Iyethka culture. The feather is present in all lives, through our naming ceremonies given to us when we are children and all important events. It is an honour to paint the box, and we wanted to put an important cultural image that represents this honour. The eyes represent animals that are in this area, (Wolf, Big Horn Sheep, Eagle, Bear, Elk and Lynx), they are also grandfathers looking down on us when we are on our vision quests. The bear eye represents Jarron, whose Iyethka name translates as Black Bear with White Fur on the Side, and Kyle’s Iyethka name which translates as Eagle Child.

 

We hope this mural will teach other people to remember Iyethka traditions and that this is a very important place to heal.


About Jarron


My name is Jarron Poucette. I was born and raised in Morley, and developed my art practice

based on my community around me and the things I grew up seeing. I have been doing art

since I was three years old, starting with painting and drawing on my parents' walls. I further

developed my art skills in school, learning to oil paint in high school. After high school my

practice changed and I started exploring tattooing, and have moved between and into new

mediums wherever I need a creative shift.


I am someone who loves to move between mediums of art and shifted again into creating

regalia for family and friends and for sale. Recently I have been learning the traditional Sioux

designs through talking to Elders and viewing collections at the Whyte Museum.


I am inspired by the things around me in my home community of Morley. The things I draw are

often from memory of things I have seen and photos of animals and events. I really developed

my practice when I sold my first painting in my teens and realized this was something I could

make a career out of.


I enjoy working from home in my art studio and create most of my work there. But I have also

painted murals at Chiniki College. I am often inspired by the events and world around me and the

things I see on the land while hunting, then paint and sketch things from memory and images at

home later.


About Kyle


Kyle Kaquitts was born and raised in Morley. He started developing an interest in art about five years ago, making beaded tipis and dreamcatchers. He also created his own regalia and danced in the Banff Pow Wow in 2023. Kyle participated in the Seasonal Mural and the mural about his grandfather Sitting Wind with AJA Louden and his brother Jarron and is interested in learning more about painting and mural making.


Kristy North Peigan (Blackfoot)

Kristy North Peigan (Blackfoot) stands alongside her mural artwork as part of the 2024 Cave and Basin Mural Project.
Kristy North Peigan (Blackfoot) stands alongside her mural artwork as part of the 2024 Cave and Basin Mural Project.

“Natooyi Kiiskoom” 

 

Oki, my name is Kristy North Peigan and I am an artist from Piikani. My mural box aims to illustrate the feminine spirit of these sacred sites according to Blackfoot oral teachings and my personal experience and intuitive energies with the site. We have always revered our women and grandmothers not only as life givers but as leaders in our societies. This matriarchal structure was disrupted due to the effects of colonization and its inherent misogyny. Because of this, we have lost many of our women’s teachings. Hopefully, these stories and practices can be recovered as we rekindle our connection with the sacred caves and with sites all over Banff National Park.

 

To represent the grandmother spirits and my matriarchs, I opted to paint my murals in grandmother colours: pinks and blues. I wanted to show the inherent feminine quality of nature, life, and healing. With the help of my Knowledge Keeper, we designed the four sides of my mural box with the main themes being shelter, healing, sanctuary, and language. The mural begins inside the cave, with the spirits depicted by the faces in the cave walls and the figures holding hands. On the second wall is a Buffalo skull framed by Buffalo Mountain. Blackfoot peoples would take refuge in the caves to shelter from harsh weather conditions. You can follow the footsteps in the snow going into one eye of the skull/cave and coming out the other end to life, warmth and safety. The third side is the Blackfoot name of the site, “Natooyi Kiiskoom'' which directly translates to “Holy Hot Spring.” The English word does not do justice to how many tribes revere the spring waters, which we used for healing, ceremony, and many other purposes. The final side shows a Winter count, where we would track significant events, placing pictographs into a spiral to show the passing of time. To allude to this, I have painted a spiral, which is also a sacred image in many cultures, and the symbol for “Piikani” at the top.  

 

Oki, I am Blackfoot from the Piikani Nation and live and work in Mohkinstsis (Calgary, Alberta.) I am an alumni of the AUarts Visual Communications Program, with a degree in illustration. I have been drawing since I was a young child. Art was always my mental safe space, and now it is my career. I hope to continue to learn my culture, express myself with my art, and represent my family and my nation proudly on many projects in the future.


About Kristy


Kristy North Peigan is a Peigan First Nation member and a freelance artist in Calgary, AB, located in Treaty 7 territory.


Kristy is a Blackfoot artist with a surreal and futuristic style that juxtaposes digital painting with oils on canvas for her works. She uses Indigenous teachings and subject matter to portray a modern view of Indigenous voices in surreal spaces. Her unique artistic vision and advocacy have brought her many exciting experiences in her art. She has worked on various design projects and logos, aiding in uplifting Indigenous businesses, organizations, and community projects. Her work on these projects and spaces adds a layer of reciprocity to these organizations by having another layer of Indigenous representation. Kristy continues her work as a freelance artist, designer, prop maker, muralist, youth facilitator, and costume maker.


She hopes to continue adding new professional endeavours and experiences to her artistic practice.


Brendon Many Bears (Blackfoot)


Brendon Many Bears (Blackfoot) stands alongside his mural artwork as part of the 2024 Cave and Basin Mural Project.
Brendon Many Bears (Blackfoot) stands alongside his mural artwork as part of the 2024 Cave and Basin Mural Project.

The Banff area is regarded as the Holy Hot Spring amongst the Niitsitapi and was ceremonial grounds that we shared with the Stoney Nations and with other nations. When we came into this area, all negativity and conflict were left outside of these boundaries while we came to attend ceremonies within our culture. This neutral space gave each nation the chance to celebrate their cultures and ceremonies while interacting with one another in a peaceful way. 

 

While creating the art for the mural box, I wanted to tell a simplistic story in the Blackfoot culture, while also not giving away too much knowledge that we hold sacred. Each panel describes the different steps a Niitsitapi goes through to attain a design for their niitoy’yiss.  

 

The first image displays a niitoy’yiss with a blank canvas and the sky beings: The Lost Children, Morning Star, and The Seven Brothers. The second image shows a Niitsitapi undergoing a vision quest overlooking Sulpher Mountain to retrieve their niitoy’yiss design. The third image reveals the niitoy’yiss design after the Niitsitapi receives their vision. The sky beings from the first panel make their way down and end up on the niitoy’yiss, while the triangle shapes that run along the bottom border represent the mountains. The last image shows the niitoy’yiss set up with its new design and Castle Mountain off in the distance.  

 

In the Blackfoot culture you go through one of three ways to obtain a niitoy’yiss design. You have to have a dream, or a vision, or the design has to be passed down to you from your family. If you do not go through any of these processes, then your niitoy’yiss remains blank until you do so. Out of respect and to avoid mistakingly copying a real niitoy’yiss design, I used my great-grandfather’s regalia colours for the niitoy’yiss design. My great grandfather Jim Many Bears used to attend the old Banff Powwows and to honour him, I brought his colours back to Banff in this mural. 


About Brendon


Brendon Many Bears is a Blackfoot artist from Siksika, Alberta. He specializes in graphic design and digital art and works as a freelance artist. In the last year, he has created and taught digital art forms for IndigeSTEAM and Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park. He also runs his own Etsy shop, selling his artwork as stickers or prints. He would like to become a tattoo artist someday and open his own shop back home in Siksika.


About the Mentors


Joseph Sanchez is a painter who is part of the Indigenous Group of 7. He is mentoring the

artists with the image content and illustrating the theme of connection to place through artwork,

as well as providing painting and drawing skill development.

.

AJA Louden has provided mentorship to artists for all three years of this project. A mural and

street artist and graphic designer, AJA provides expertise in content development, material

selections, and techniques to translate ideas onto a larger scale and provides painting and

drawing skill development.


Bruno Canadien is a painter and public art artist, providing expertise in techniques to translate ideas onto a larger scale and providing painting and drawing skill

development.


Dawn Saunders Dahl is a painter and public art administrator assisting with all aspects of

support for the mentors and the artists in administration, content creation, artwork installation,

and safety. Dawn is the Whyte Museum Manager of Indigenous Relationships and Programs


About the Cave and Basin Mural Project


This artwork and mentorship mural project celebrating Indigenous artists is a joint initiative by the Peter and Catharine Whyte Foundation and Parks Canada.


After attending a weeklong mentorship workshop at both the Whyte Museum and the Cave and

Basin, artists were on-site in early June at the Cave and Basin creating their artwork. With traditional connections to the Cave and Basin, Banff and the Bow Valley, these artists expressed their perspectives on Indigenous histories, stories, and experiences that live in this special place.


Situated just outside the Town of Banff at the base of Sulphur Mountain, Cave and Basin has

been a significant place for Indigenous Peoples for over ten thousand years to the present. It is also the site of Canada’s first national park, where settlers built swimming pools, historic architecture and tourism activity following the arrival of the railway. At the heart of this multi-layered and sometimes difficult history are the mineral hot springs, geological features and unique ecology that have drawn people here for millennia.


Today, the site is a national historic site and museum visited each year by hundreds of thousands of people from around the world; a gathering place for sharing stories about the connections between people and the land in special places across the northern reaches of Turtle Island.


Indigenous arts and culture hold an immeasurable wealth of knowledge, and for centuries Elders and Knowledge Keepers have provided support systems for younger generations on Turtle Island. As Elders, artists and community members pass, that loss of knowledge combined with the integration of different world views reduces and limits opportunities to continue to ”pass the fire." The goal of embedding a mentorship opportunity within this art project is to provide positive experiences through the transfer of knowledge, thus strengthening Indigenous artistic voices within the public art and art exhibition fields.


 

Visit the Cave and Basin murals this summer for yourself!


The Cave and Basin National Historic Site is located at 311 Cave Ave, Banff, Alberta. Murals

are located on the Cave and Basin grounds and admission is not required to view the displays.


To learn more about the Cave and Basin Mural Project, join an Indigenous Tour at the Whyte Museum this summer, running Fridays and Saturdays in July, August, and September*


Set out on a 60-minute tour starting at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site and

ending on the Whyte Museum grounds. Listen to the stories of Indigenous peoples on this land since time immemorial through the artistic expressions of Indigenous artists on the mural boxes and picnic tables on the Whyte Museum grounds. The cost is $30/person, free for youth under 17.


*Dates may vary, please check with whyte.org/events for the most up-to-date tour dates

and times.


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