Indigenous Installation at White Oak Playground

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Indigenous Installation for White Oak Playground

Changes have been underway at the White Oak playground in the community of Wildwood in Calgary. A First Nations inspired space is being installed and will be completed in 2021. The goal of the project is to increase knowledge of Indigenous history and to give children the opportunity to explore the rich cultural heritage of the land which the playground is located on. “The focus is a community gathering space,” said Brian Van Vliet of Spartan Controls. Van Vliet is the Wildwood resident who led the project along others. He helped design the space with Heather Morigeau, who offered guidance and consulted on the project. Morigeau is of Métis background and was integral to the project connecting partners with Indigenous participants.

The Calgary Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee (CAUAC), Elder Clarence Wolfleg and Artist Ryan Willert all offered input on the design. “This playground had reach end of life and needed to be renewed. With community support, I helped achieve improved outcomes for this gathering place,” said Van Vliet. “In the education system, children learn about Canadian history but it’s not as tangible. Kids may not appreciate that they are living on Treaty lands. Many people generally aren’t aware.

Sponsors of the project include: Shell, CNOOC (Nexen), RBC (Benevity), Calgary Cycle and Kidnation (playground supplier), Woodcliff United Church, PowerWalkers, A Pizza Plus, Safeway, Dairy Queen, and CanadianEagle. CanadianEagle is an Indigenous owned private clean tech company providing GHG emission reduction technology and services across Canada. Robert MacCuish, CEO of CanadianEagle, provided additional consultation on the playground installation. He said he was pleased to donate to the initiative. “I was so impressed that I wanted to make a donation to help you finish your playground,” said MacCuish. Phase I of the playground was constructed in July 2018 with the help of residents and RBC volunteers. The continued Indigenous consultation resulted in Phase II of the renewal. Since 2018, Indigenous Treaty lands maps have been incorporated into the play structures right beside the map of the provinces. Before they broke ground with Phase II, Elder Clarence Wolfleg provided a blessing for the site. Tobacco offerings were placed at each of the four corners of the ground and goals for the space were shared with those present. “The consultative design which includes Indigenous elements builds on the connecting the fabric and history of the community,” said Van Vliet.

“It’s important to appreicate Canada’s multicultural fabric.”

Once the post-COVID situation allows the community to meet in a larger gathering again, the development team plans to host an official opening and ribbon cutting. Representation from the Indigenous consultants, Parks Foundation Calgary, Calgary Parks Department, Calgary Foundation, Wildwood Community Association, and sponsors of the project will be invited to join the community in the celebration. Ryan Willert and Elder Clarence Wolfleg look forward to supporting engagement through storytelling to raise awareness of Indigenous culture for children. “It’s important to appreciate Canada’s multicultural fabric, to give Indigenous People the respect they deserve and to provide opportunities like this to continue building communities.”

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