When he heard about Queen Victoria’s statue being pulled down, Métis artist Kenneth Lavallee look at his desk and immediately got an idea on how to replace the fallen monument. He saw a gift from his grandmother lying on his table. It was a shell and sweetgrass. He immediately got to work, designing a new statue. Lavallee said:
“The iridescent shell just kind of caught my eye. And I was like, ‘This is beautiful.”
“You burn sweetgrass to cleanse your mind and spirit, the environment and space. I thought this place could use a good cleansing,” he said, standing in front of the pedestal where the statue of Queen Victoria used to sit. I’ve been talking about the queen for a long time— that particular sculpture, how out of place it seemed here. Front row, centre. Why does she get the best spot? She’s never been here. She doesn’t really represent anything of Manitoba or its people.”
The statue of Queen Victoria was brought down by a small group of participants in the Every Child Matters walk that commemorated children forced to attend residential schools. The protesters walked to the Manitoba Legislature grounds and toppled the statue.
Now, indigenous artists from all around the country are re-imagining what could sit in front of Manitoba’s legislature building.
Métis artist Val Vint is one of those artists. She stated:
“Usually I’ll put tobacco down and pray in times like that because you need something to get through. And all my best things come in my dreams. I woke up in the morning and I could see what I wanted there. I can’t really say everything about it, but I have a piece in my head developed for that legislative site that would represent all our peoples.”
Manitoba’s acting health minister, Kelvin Goertzen, has posted on social media that he plans to restore the Queen Victoria statue. Official confirmation from his office hasn’t been announced yet.