Manitoba

Students at Winnipeg school unveil striking mosaic they created to share the meaning of 'treaty'

Students at David Livingstone School in Winnipeg's North End have unveiled a striking new piece of art they designed and created, which they hope will help students reflect on the meaning of "treaty" for years to come.

New student-created mosaic at David Livingstone School 'a symbol of truly moving forward': treaty commissioner

The student advisory group at Winnipeg's David Livingstone School, along with integrated arts teacher Talitha Kaethler, sitting second from left, and local artist Ursula Neufeld, sitting far right, in front of the new mosaic they unveiled on Friday. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Students at David Livingstone School in Winnipeg's North End have unveiled a striking new piece of art they designed and created, which they hope will help others reflect on the meaning of "treaty" for years to come.

The mosaic project, designed and created by the students and intended to depict how they define the word "treaty," was unveiled on the west wall of the school on Friday.

I learned a lot about the passion of advocacy. They were so well informed about treaties. They had a passion for art. Change can happen through art.- Artist Ursula Neufeld

"'Treaty' involves every living thing and we should all respect it. Not break it," said Grade 7 student Lexi McKay.

"Because if they do that, how dare they!" 

For student Mku Musaka, "treaty" is all about respect. 

"Without respect in this school, kids would be running around not listening to the teachers. What treaty means to me is rules that will help the community stick together, instead of trying to go over people."

Yumna Chaudhry, in Grade 8, says treaty is upholding truth. In her opinion, truth is what is most important.

"If you are in a treaty, you promise something. You have to say, 'Yes, I did make that promise.' You can't say, 'Oh, I never said that.' You have to say the truth and do it."

The mosaic project is an extension of David Livingstone's written code of conduct — their own treaty. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Respect and truth are two of the seven teachings laid out in the David Livingstone written code of conduct — their own treaty, which draws on the seven sacred Indigenous teachings — that is painted on a wall, for all to see, in the front entrance of the school.

The other teachings include love, wisdom, humility, courage and honesty and are part of the school's treaty on how to work with one another — a treaty which includes students, staff, parents and the community.

The code is a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action that has been three years in the making. 

The idea of taking that treaty written on the wall and transposing it into a work of art was the brainchild of Talitha Kaethler, the school's integrated arts teacher. She knew some students at the school are members of the community who have moved here from other countries and don't yet speak or read English, but are learning.

"How can we communicate that — the truth of the commitment we are all making to each other — in this community? How can we do that in a way other than words?That's where the idea for creating a mural came from," said Kaethler.

The school connected with local artist Ursula Neufeld, who collaborated with the students on design and taught them how to use tools to cut tiles into shape, attach pieces with mortar and make a border, and how to cut dishes and glass and grind materials. It took months of planning, but only a month to make their creation a reality.

Neufeld says while she taught the students how to create mosaic, they taught her as well.

"You know, I learned a lot about the passion of advocacy. They were so well informed about treaties. They had a passion for art. Change can happen through art," said Neufeld.

High praise from treaty commissioner

That's a lesson that gets high praise from Manitoba's treaty commissioner. Loretta Ross was on hand to congratulate the students at the unveiling on their incredible achievement.

"People ask me, 'How do we move forward? What are the treaties all about?' A lot of time people ask me how do we do things, how do we celebrate the treaties? And you guys are doing it all on your own," she said to the David Livingstone students at the unveiling.

When I am older and come back to the school to see it, it's going to be awesome. Other people are going to get to learn about the school treaties that we had here.- Grade 7 student Liberty Oetting

"It's so wonderful. This is bringing it to our daily lives and it's a symbol of truly moving forward. It's what treaties are all about in terms of mutual co-existence and understanding each other."

In a time where the word "treaty" may conjure up thoughts of broken promises, parent Krista Gill says the students are changing attitudes.

"People may think of treaty negatively. With what they have done here, it's a very positive outlook in a very positive way, where community is coming together and recognizing each other in a loving way," said Gill.

Making a mark for future students

For Grade 7 student Liberty Oetting, it's making a mark in history. She loves the idea of doing a big piece of art that will mean something for years to come.

"When you see it, and when I am older and come back to the school to see it, it's going to be awesome. Other people are going to get to learn about the school treaties that we had here," said Oetting.

A close-up view of the mosaic. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

For Yumna Chaudhry, the magnificent mosaic is a moment frozen in time.

"It's done. We did it. It was hard work. All these people were working together and now it's going to be here thousands and thousands of years from now. People are going to see it and say, 'That's so cool.'"

Kaethler says choosing mosaic to define treaty was the right choice. 

"One piece of the treaty is not more important than any other piece. Mosaic as a craft speaks really to the importance of every single little piece, and variation. It's not uniformity that is valued, it is diversity. It is the bright blue next to the black that brings the beautiful contrast," she said.

The project was made possible with an $11,000 grant from the Winnipeg Foundation.

Students unveil striking mosaic art

4 years ago
Duration 1:59
Students at David Livingstone School in Winnipeg's North End have unveiled a striking new piece of art they designed and created, which they hope will help others reflect on the meaning of "treaty" for years to come.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Marianne has always had a passion for seeking the truth. She began her career anchoring and reporting at CKX Brandon. From there she worked in both TV news and current affairs at CBC Saskatoon. For the past 25 years Marianne has worked in Winnipeg, both in radio and television. She was formerly a teacher in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

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