Wednesday, July 5, 2017
artwork seen through a mobile camera

The artwork of Jay Bell Redbird, artist and member of the Wikwemikong First Nation, was unveiled to respect the Indigenous land upon which the Faculty of Law is located, and to anchor and promote a prominent meeting place for everyone in the Jackman Law Building 

By Amanda Carling, JD 2012 / Photos by Adam Pulicicchio

Many Canadians have come to recognize June as a time to celebrate Indigenous peoples and cultures. For two decades, June 21 has been known as National Aboriginal Day and since 2009, June has been recognized as Aboriginal History Month. While this recognition is important, for much, much longer – hundreds of thousands of years – Indigenous people have considered June a time to celebrate the Summer Solstice and all of the gifts that we get from this land, land we call Turtle Island.

To that end, on June 29, the Faculty of Law held a celebration. We feasted on delicious traditional Anishinaabe food from caterer NishDish. We received a teaching about the land the law school occupies and our responsibilities to her from Sto:Loh Traditional Teacher Lee Maracle, and we unveiled a painting, created for the law school, by Jay Bell Redbird an artist and member of the Wikwemikong First Nation.

They can choose to celebrate and engage with Indigenous laws at the law school and in Tsi Tkaròn:to, and in so doing they can work towards finding those right relations. I think Jay's piece will put the colour and energy of that message right in the very physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual heart of the Faculty of Law, for all to see!

Staff, professors and students at the law school have for some time wanted a piece of art to hang in the Jackman Law Building in recognition of the fact our school is on Indigenous land. The 2016-17 Indigenous Law Students’ Association (ILSA) developed the vision for the art and selected Jay Bell Redbird as their first artist to create the piece. We were absolutely thrilled when Jay agreed to create a painting for us. Not only that, he actually painted it in one of the beautiful new meeting spaces in the Jackman Law Building. For almost three weeks our students, staff and faculty were able to visit with Jay while he was creating "A Meeting Place for All Our Relations". He was incredibly generous with his time and knowledge. He shared his teachings, taught us about the laws represented in the painting and kept us laughing the whole time.  Perhaps the only thing that was better than the process of having Jay here and visiting with him is the final product. His painting is beautiful, meaningful and we are so grateful for his gift.

Artist with students in front of his painting

From left: Douglas Varrette, Natalie Day, Joshua Favel, Zachary Biech (members of the Indigenous Law Students' Association) with Jay Bell Redbird

Incoming ILSA Co-Presidents Joshua Favel and Zachary Biech helped organize and host the unveiling event.

“I think it’s important that the Faculty of Law has a visible representation of the fact that we are on Indigenous land, and that Indigenous people have been in this area for thousands of years,” said Favel. “Toronto has been, and continues to be, a meeting place for people from all backgrounds and cultures, and I think that this is well reflected in Jay’s work. I also think it’s fitting that the work contains Indigenous laws and knowledge, and that these now will have a place of pride within the law school. ”

There is much to take away from this event, added Biech.  "Jay’s piece and the teachings shared by Lee Maracle really resonate with the message we wanted to send. Together, the image and the teachings illustrate lifeways for finding right relations with all the peoples and beings on this territory. They also illustrate a process, rooted in Indigenous laws and knowledge, of sharing time and energy and resources to create beautiful things and to move forward in a good and healthy way for the people and the ecosystem. We are very excited because this piece will place those healing lifeways and processes in the forefront for the next generation of students starting in September, and because this piece gives light to the fact that, as Lee Maracle and I spoke about, that future generations now have a choice. They can choose to celebrate and engage with Indigenous laws at the law school and in Tsi Tkaròn:to, and in so doing they can work towards finding those right relations. I think Jay's piece will put the colour and energy of that message right in the very physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual heart of the Faculty of Law, for all to see!”

Lee Maracle speaking

"A teaching about the land the law school occupies and our responsibilities to her":Sto:Loh Traditional Teacher Lee Maracle

The painting will soon be framed and hung in a prominent place in the atrium of the new Jackman Law Building. Not only does this painting represent a meeting place for all our relations, we also want it to be a literal meeting place where our friends, family and community members can come together to connect, organize, grow, share ideas and give back.

We are grateful to the Faculty of Law and the Jackman Humanities Institute for their support of this project and event. Thanks also to Traditional Teacher Lee Maracle, the incredible artist, our friend, Jay Bell Redbird and all those who made time to attend the event. The presentations, including a very important teaching from Lee Maracle, were video recorded and will be made available on the Faculty’s website and the Indigenous Initiatives Office YouTube Channel in the coming months.