'I want people to know that Selkirk is a nice place to be': Massive new mural transforms friendship centre

A massive new mural that displays sacred teachings and medicines has been created on the outside of the Selkirk Friendship Centre.

Several artists collaborated on new mural, based on 7 sacred teachings, at Selkirk Friendship Centre

This new mural was recently unveiled on the walls of Selkirk Friendship Centre. (Adeline Bird/CBC)

A massive new mural that depicts sacred Indigenous teachings and medicines has been created on the outside of the Selkirk Friendship Centre. 

The new mural, called The Healing Path and created around the theme of "living in a good way," was officially unveiled on July 26, with the help of local artists, knowledge keepers and organizations.

"I want people to know that Selkirk is a nice place to be, there's nice stuff to look at. It's not just all the bad stories you hear," said Ashley Christiansen, one of the artists involved in creating the mural at 222 Manitoba Ave., which measures roughly 30 metres by five metres.

"There's artists, musicians, there's good people. There's reasons to come here. Hopefully they draw people in, get them to visit and see that it's not so bad."

The project was initiated by the Interlake Art Board, in partnership with the Selkirk Community Arts Centre, which is working to positively change the streetscape of Selkirk, a city of about 10,000. The overall objective is to support and strengthen communities through murals and public art, according to knowledge keeper Jeannie Whitebird. She was involved in creating the mural, along with Christiansen and artists Brad Lent and Ryan Gauthier.

Each artist received mentorship from artist Charlie Johnston, whose murals and sculptures can be seen around Winnipeg and beyond. He guided them through the mural's inception, and helped with painting techniques.

The vibrant mural incorporates visuals representing Indigenous teachings and traditions. (Adeline Bird/CBC)

The vibrant mural, which is designed to show a path, depicts the seven sacred teachings — respect, truth, love, wisdom, humility, courage and honesty. It also features the animals associated with the sacred teachings — the buffalo, wolf, beaver, sabé (also known as the sasquatch), eagle, bear and turtle — which are displayed along a cobblestone path in the shape of an infinity loop.

The mural also includes imagery of the four sacred medicines in Indigenous traditions — tobacco, sage, sweetgrass and cedar — which are depicted in the centre where the loops intersect.

In addition, the mural incorporates Métis-inspired floral beadwork on one side and Ojibwe-inspired floral beadwork on the other side.

Christiansen said the mural is already having a positive effect.

"Every day we see people just gathering out here … just talking and being together."

Ashley Christiansen was one of the artists involved in creating the mural. (Adeline Bird/CBC)

The non-profit Selkirk Friendship Centre, which provides services and programming to the community, has provided a drop-in facility for local youth for years.

"The next step is to get the youth who frequent the centre to get involved," said Christiansen.

There is an empty space between the Frienship Centre and the building next to it, where another mural will go up. A "Healing Path garden" will also be created in the space, led by Whitebird.

The garden will be a space where "the youth will get a chance to grow all four of the scared medicines so that they can learn about them and attend ceremony," said Christiansen.

"It's one of the main reasons we are doing this — to get the kids doing stuff."