This artist is breathing Indigenous life into Hamilton, one mural at a time

Kyle Joedicke, a 29-year-old Haudenosaunee artist, is painting Indigenous murals across Hamilton.

'What I'm really trying to convey is a grander sense of community,' says 29-year-old Kyle Joedicke

Kyle Joedicke, 29, is painting Indigenous murals across Hamilton. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

When Kyle Joedicke decided to focus on his art three years ago, it was just something he loved doing.

But now the 29-year-old Haudenosaunee artist, who spends his days working as a general labourer, is commissioned regularly — and he's creating murals on a scale he said he never imagined was possible.

"I'm honestly grateful for it every day," said Joedicke, who is Cayuga from Six Nations of the Grand River with the Turtle Clan.

"I dedicated my first mural in the city to my late grandmother who passed away three years ago now. She was always one of my most staunch supporters ... I truly feel like in some way she's guiding me on this path."

Joedicke said his work is predominantly Indigenous art and more specifically, Woodland-style art, first created by Norval Morrisseau.

WATCH: Kyle Joedicke paints a mural on Concession Street

This artist is breathing Indigenous life into Hamilton, one mural at a time

9 months ago
Duration 1:21
Kyle Joedicke, a 29-year-old artist, is painting Indigenous murals across Hamilton.

"This style of art is a visual representation of the oral traditions and teachings Norval was taught by his grandfather," Joedicke said.

One of Joedicke's most recent murals is on Concession Street. It depicts the teachings of the seven grandfathers.

The story behind the teachings, as Joedicke knows it, was a young Indigenous boy saw issues in his community and approached an elder for help. The elder told the boy to go on a spirit quest.

Kyle Joedicke paints details into the turtle in his mural on Concession Street. The turtle represents truth, one of the seven grandfather teachings. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

After the third day of basking and reflecting, the boy begins to see and hear spirits, each with their own teaching.

The teachings include:

  • Respect, symbolized by a buffalo.
  • Love, symbolized by a bald eagle.
  • Courage, symbolized by a bear.
  • Honesty, symbolized by a sabe (or sasquatch).
  • Humility, symbolized by a wolf.
  • Wisdom, symbolized by a beaver.
  • Truth, symbolized by a turtle.

While he posts many of his works on Instagram, another mural Joedicke is working on can be found at St. Matthew's House on Barton Street. The house has a childcare centre and offers senior support services in the lower city.

The painting is a memorial for the unmarked graves of Indigenous children found at former residential school sites.

Joedicke said it's the mural that brings him the most pride.

Kyle Joedicke's mural at St. Matthew's House on Barton Street is a memorial for the unmarked graves of Indigenous children found at former residential school sites. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

"I have family members that were survivors of the residential school system ... it touches my family and my heart very deeply," he said.

"To be able to give anything back in a representation of it is incredibly moving for me."

Renée Wetselaar, St. Matthew's House executive director, said she recognizes the harm the church had and continues to have on Indigenous families, especially given that St. Matthew's House is an agency that started out of the Anglican Church.

"We have Indigenous children in our care at the centre. We are not an Indigenous-led agency but we are here to show our solidarity," she said.

"Art is always a motivator and a signal of change. Certainly having [the mural] there on Barton street with such a big audience gives us the opportunity or train and teach others about this narrative and this story."

She plans to have kids in the program see the final mural and discuss it with the support of Indigenous educators.

Murals 'a point of learning' for settlers

Joedicke said now that he is doing more art, particularly Indigenous art, he's thinking more about how he wants it to impact them.

"What I'm really trying to convey is a grander sense of community," he said.

"I want the urban Indigenous community to be able to see and interact with Indigenous art that's not so stifling like a museum or gallery setting. Something very in their own home."

And he's also thinking about how people who aren't Indigenous will perceive it.

"I want this to be a point of learning and to be able to take away something from our knowledge that isn't in a text book. Something that is actually true to the people of the land and not a stereotype," Joedicke said.

"This is something that brings Indigenous stories and Indigenous ideas to the forefront and that's what we need right now."


Bobby Hristova is a reporter for CBC News in Hamilton. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.