Don Wilkins pays homage to Métis culture with Highway 11 sculptures

Saskatchewan artist and retired farmer Don Wilkins has created a series of metal sculptures along Highway 11 that pay homage to the role Métis people played in the region's settlement.

8 sculptures have been installed along Louis Riel Trail, including one of the Métis leader himself

'The Invitation' is the latest sculpture along Highway 11 dedicated to Métis history in Saskatchewan. (Don Wilkins)

The drive along Highway 11 has become a lot more interesting than the average road trip down a Saskatchewan highway.

Saskatchewan artist and retired farmer Don Wilkins has created a series of metal sculptures that pay homage to the role Métis people played in the region's settlement.

"[People say] a picture is worth a thousand words, and I put [the sculptures] up there so that they will take a historic interest in our community and our province," Wilkins explained.

His most recent installation is being erected along a stretch of Highway 11 near Bladworth, and it is the first to depict Louis Riel.

The four-metre sculpture is called The Invitation, to symbolize the time period in 1884 when a delegation went down to Montana to ask Louis Riel to help the Métis people in their negotiations with the Canadian government.

Wilkins helps rename Highway 11 

Don Wilkins is a retired farmer and artist who has been welding sculptures that depict Métis life from his shop near Girvin, Saskatchewan. (Don Wilkins)
 In 2001, Wilkins and a committee of volunteers were able to get Highway 11 renamed the Louis Riel Trail.

"The Highways people said they would not just attach a name to the highway. There had to be something more," said Wilkins.

"Every farmer can do some welding and I had a historical bent so I decided I would go to work and do what I could to symbolize the Métis way of life."

Wilkins currently has eight major sculptures positioned along Highway 11.

His depictions of Métis history cover the years 1850 to 1895, and he says despite accounts of the Northwest Rebellion and the execution of Louis Riel, the stories are not all doom and gloom.

Don Wilkins' stands next to his 13-foot sculpture of Métis leader Louis Riel near Bladworth, Saskatchewan. (Don Wilkins)
"The Métis people were a great, joyful bunch. After the buffalo hunts and during the winter months [they] had a fiddle fest; had a really good time."

The public is welcome to go up and touch any of the eight metal sculptures, Wilkins said.

"I just hope they get some entertainment from them as well as some educational understanding," he added.

Wilkins does all of the sculptures as a donation, so they come with no burden to taxpayers.

Other sculptures along Louis Riel Trail

The rest of the sculptures can be found along the highway between Prince Albert and Regina:

The Surveyor — Chamberlain
The Ox and Cart — Aylsbury
The Buffalo Hunter — Craik
The Buffalo — Girvin
Two-dimensional, open-framed buffalo — near Chamberlain
The Bone Gatherer with Horse and Cart — Dundurn
Two-dimensional buffalo at Buffalo Plains Grain Terminal — Balgonie

Additional Red River Cart sculptures can be spotted at the Bethune Rest Area, Highway 15 west of Kenaston, Hanley, Warman, Rosthern, Duck Lake, and Saskatchewan Landing.