Location: Yonge Street and The Esplanade, Toronto, Ontario
In researching the site and surrounding area, I came upon documentation of a ceramic pot and bird effigy circa 1300-50 made by the Iroquois who lived on the land during that time period. It caused me think about how, throughout the ages, we have always looked to animals as a way of knowing who we are in relation to other beings, and also to the land we inhabit.
Because the site of the Esplanade is historically associated with movement and travel, I immediately thought of the eagle as a symbol of both, and at the same time, representative of past, present, and future relationships to our environment.
The period in which the ceramic pot and effigy was created most likely demonstrated a relationship to the spirit of the bird, in a time when people lived much closer to the land and the animals with whom they shared it.
My endeavour when creating this sculpture is to do the same - I want to invite connection to the spirit of the animal, and also point to our changing relationship with the earth and wild animals.
For the Iroquois, the eagle is said to be a messenger to the creator. It is a protector of peace, while also on the look out for danger.
Similarly, in Haida culture, the eagle is believed to be a messenger, and to have the closest relationship to the creator. Because he can fly so high, he is able to travel between the physical world and the spirit world. The eagle sends messages and prayers to the creator.
The eagle is one of the two main Haida crests, and it is one of my totems. It symbolizes great strength, prestige, leadership, and also, peace.
In many First Nation’s cultures, the eagle feather plays an important role in culture and ceremony. An eagle feather is worn by people who have earned the privilege, as they are often bestowed for acts of courage and wisdom. Eagle feathers represent the strength and ability to speak honestly from the heart, without hurt or anger.
In the sculpture that I present to you, the bird looks down upon the viewer as if to assert dominance and presence, and also to show off his power and beauty. At the same time, he offers his energy and spirit to anyone who will allow the connection and relationship into their consciousness.
In our urbanity, we build structures to live and work in, and they have transformed the environment in such a way to reflect how our society is organized, but this does not mean that the spirit of animals and the connections we have to them, somehow go away. That relationship is still here and is available to anyone whenever they choose to connect with it.
In fact, it is probably more relevant than ever to remember our connections to the earth and the animals, and open up to what they have to teach us. Perhaps we offer ourselves to the eagle as a prayer that he takes up with him to the creator.