Tsuut’ina artist shares pain of seeing home replaced by ring road with new Central Library installation

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“I was angry and traumatized. I couldn’t talk about what I was going through. But going to school and making art, I was able to find these different ways to communicate my feelings. And get other people to feel things.”

As a solo visual artist, Cardinal Dodginghorse’s work has resonated with galleries across Alberta. As a collective, mother and son created their first installation during a residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. It featured photographs of Cardinal Dodginghorse’s great-great-grandmother Winnie Bull (née Crowchild), and her infant daughter Elsie, silkscreened on elk hide.

Select library cards at Calgary Public Libraries now feature these exact images, making the venue for 210 Chaguzagha-tsi tina all the more significant. It was not until 2016 that Indigenous people could access a library card without paying upwards of $100 in a non-resident fee. This was thanks in part to the years Cardinal spent lobbying the Calgary Public Library so she and her children could access the service.

“I didn’t have a library card growing up. I couldn’t get one,” recalls Cardinal Dodginghorse, adding, “those photos have a lot of meaning to my family.”

Seth Cardinal Dodginghorse cuts his braids as a part of his protest of the opening of the Tsuut'ina Trail section of the southwest Calgary ring road on Thursday, October 1, 2020. Dodginghorse said his family lost their family home and land to make way for the road. Gavin Young/Postmedia
Seth Cardinal Dodginghorse cuts his braids to protest the opening of the Tsuut’ina Trail section of the southwest ring road. Gavin Young/Postmedia Gavin Young/Postmedia

Activism, it seems, runs through his veins. At the opening ceremony of the southwest ring road, he quite literally took a stand. After Mayor Nenshi finished his speech, Cardinal Dodginghorse stepped up to the podium and shared his family’s trauma of being displaced. Pulling silver scissors from his pocket, he then cut his braids in mourning, leaving part of himself on the new eight-lane highway.

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