Alumni Stories: The Journey Towards Unification
Published on May 18, 2022
In March 2020, Rundle College Senior High School welcomed alumnus and Red Pheasant First Nation artist, Justin Ouellette ’96, who spoke to the artwork he created for the 2020 rugby jerseys. The assembly also provided the platform for a connection with Tsuut’ina Nation Elder Gerald Meguinis, who performed a smudging ceremony with the senior boys rugby team and encouraged the members of the boys’ rugby team to wear the jersey with pride during the team’s planned trip to South Africa. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic the trip had to be cancelled but plans are already in place for a 2022 tour.
By Justin J. Ouellette ‘96
Published previously in the 2021 issue of The Ascent, Rundle alumni magazine.
Just prior to the pandemic, I was given the opportunity to create something special for my old alma mater by Mr. Bob Forman. This piece of art was intended to be a part of the rugby jersey for the high school rugby team, and their impressive sojourn to South Africa in April 2020.
After much pondering, discussion, and what I believe to this day to be a groundbreaking idea of Mr. Forman’s, was to create an indigenous piece of artwork that would be worn to represent Canada and the ideals from which it evolved many years ago. Unfortunately, the rugby team’s adventure was cancelled, with the future intent for it to materialize at a later time.
There is no historic representation for the term reconciliation in First Nations/Aboriginal languages, as the idea is very much in its infancy. With the combined belief systems of non-Aboriginal, and Aboriginal perspectives, we come to a challenging idea. The commendable foresight of this great gesture and the willingness of Rundle College to be a pioneer in the bridging of generational issues has created an idea that representation of culture, as long as done respectfully, is imperative to the education and growth of both our minds and the environment in which we live.
As we go throughout our days and years, we strive to be excellent and true to the teachings of the past, present, and future. When we took this challenge of uniting two different cultural perspectives it wasn’t about who has the upper hand, or about taking something from someone’s culture; it is about cultural teachings, and how we share with one another what we believe and the truths that exist among us all. The truths we hoped you would be blessed with include respect, kindness, love, and unity.
When we look upon this picture, it is a type of petroglyph written in our modern stone form (also known as digital imagery). We see many different things happening, and those depictions create a very definitive story that resounds in all of us. I have taken the opportunity to name this term Impressum Art which is defined as the following: the derivative of specifically focusing on the psychological processes associated with artistic healing models.
This picture holds true to a circle, and sphere of life and how our souls unite with one another and seek to belong within the Spirit of the Creator, and in nature. That circle is called the sacred circle. It is you! We realize that life is a sphere of courage, wisdom, healing, and we continue on our journeys over mountains, plains, skies, and waters. Each of these colours you see represents a particular piece of our journey and psyche.
Yellow represents birth and youthful adventure, like a sunrise over a beautiful mountain, ready to take on the world and learn new things. This also depicts the element of fire, and how fire is the warmth that creates life, on our journey, and how it warms us and teaches us.
Red depicts the abundance of youth, and how it is a time for growth, learning, and love. Notice the placement of the flower over the land, where it feeds off of the water. It represents the earth and the lifeblood of the land, it shows us where to find the things of good rapport that are praiseworthy, and to seek them with diligence and urgency.
The blue shows fall and that we mature and give way to new lessons, and rid ourselves of poorly executed choices to start a new life. Sometimes it is shown as black as these things also die, but for artistic purposes, I chose blue as it gives way to a refreshing outlook of choices. This is where the harvest takes place and its symbol is water. Remember to take fresh breaths of air and drink water to stay alive.
White represents winter, and the earth element is wind and how it is the end of the life cycle. But notwithstanding, it is a time of reflection on how you lived your existence. We must always strive to help those around us and create opportunities for those who might be overlooked, especially if we have the power to do so. We must also learn to give others a second chance, never speaking ill-will of any, and hope that they have learned something too.
The Elk Spirit
The elk spirit represents both hunting prowess, and great athletic endurance and ability. Notice how the elk is a young buck, used to protect and strengthen. We look to each other for protection, teamwork, leadership, and take solace in the mountains of our school. We are much like the young elk, learning much, seeking guidance from experience, and though our hearts have the desire of the cobra, we realize that life goes beyond ourselves, and connects us to generations past and present.
We are all connected by the ongoing circle of life (or sphere of life for those who think multidimensionally) in ways that you may not understand, but will. As you look upon this painting, it represents a very distinct story of your life and the lives of those who came before you and the lives of those who will come after you.
So stand and be the men and women you were meant to be by having good virtues and fulfilling the story that is presented here of goodness, self-worth, love, peace, and kindness — remembering all that is in you is projected by what you do in your life through your actions. As a past competitive athlete and student, I pass this symbolic talking stick on to you, and I thank all of my past influencers (God, Mum, brother, wife, teachers, coaches, fellow students, students, and especially Mr. Bob Forman, and Mrs. Allison Belt for their support). May excellence and greatness become all of you.
Justin J. Ouellette
ᑭᐦᐁᐤ ᒪᐢᑲᓯᕀ (Kihew maskasiy)
The Eagles Talon Group
May you be blessed of God.