We’ve been hearing a lot of questions from our river valley neighbours — those energetic Edmontonians who walk, jog, or cycle the footpaths near Fort Edmonton Park.
They’re all wondering what this is:
In June, coinciding nicely with the Works Art & Design Festival and National Aboriginal Month, the City of Edmonton welcomed Métis artist Leah Dorion to the valley path just outside Fort Edmonton Park.
Ms. Dorion and her team of excited volunteers erected a Lobstick Pole in honour of Edmonton Métisse Eleanor (Thomas) Garneau, thrilling the 1846 Fort workers who experienced its construction and placing a wonderful piece of art, history, and culture in a spot where thousands of Edmontonians will get to enjoy it. Dorion was overjoyed to use her teaching background to help explain the construction and significance to our staff, who will spread the story to our visitors.
A lobstick is a fur trade and Métis tradition, in which the branches and bark are stripped from a spruce tree, which is decorated ceremonially. Dorion’s artist statement has more:
There was much pageantry and collaboration demonstrated by the voyageurs who made these poles. Gift giving and storytelling were a significant aspect of the creation of a lobstick pole.
The poles were used as way-markers along water routes and portages. Some marked cache sites (buried provisions or furs) or places of significance; others were created to honour an individual or event – as when Métis built a lobstick in honour of Company Governor George Simpson’s wife (and – ahem- cousin) Frances in the 1830s.
The installation of Dorion’s lobstick is in honour of Madame Eleanor Garneau, a member of Edmonton’s early Métis community and very active Edmontonian (along with her husband, Lawrence Garneau).
A tree was planted elsewhere in the River Valley by Edmonton Parks services so that the installation’s cultural and artistic importance would be balanced by environmental concerns.
Come down to Fort Edmonton Park and visit our York Boat launch across from the main Fort gate. Just outside our perimeter fence you’ll be able to see the Eleanor Garneau Lobstick Pine standing tall and proud. The interpreters can tell you more, and if you visitField to Table: A Horticultural Extravaganza (August 25), you’ll witness our majestic York Boat Arrival – where we’ll be using the lobstick just as our fur trade predecessors did – as the bright festive marker calling us home!