If the Drumming Stops - CODAworx

If the Drumming Stops

Submitted by Jenna Turner

Client: City of Edmonton

Location: Edmonton, AB, Canada

Completion date: 2021

Artwork budget: $97,000

Project Team


Tania Willard


Peter Morin


Cheryl L’Hirondelle


If The Drumming Stops is a series of four large-scale (2741/2635 mm x 4066/4086mm) artworks, which symbolically connect transit users to stories of the traditional Papaschase Cree territory. It is the intention of the artists to give voice to the spirit of the language, land, histories and present realities of Indigenous peoples in what has become the current neighborhood of Mill Woods, but which was and will always be carried in the hearts of Papaschase descendants. Working within their interpretations of the protocol of being a guest in Papaschase territory, artists Morin and Willard invited artist L’Hirondelle into this collaborative work that asserts the Papaschase Cree people’s belonging and histories within the matrix of contemporary cultures, peoples and eco-systems of the Mill Woods neighborhood today.

Through ceramic frit on tempered glass, the artwork juxtaposes archival images and drawings of the site’s original ecosystem and society with the modern, diverse community. The artists depict a woodpecker as a tribute to Chief Papaschase’s name. Also represented are a buffalo, horses, tobacco plants, drums, and the Cree syllabics of a ‘Wake Up’ song. The red-coloured glass on which the song is printed is custom-coloured to evoke the crest of a pileated woodpecker.


The Valley Line South East Light Rail Transit Project is a Private-Public Partnership (P3), with artworks integrated into the transit infrastructure of each stop, station and landmark. The goal of the Public Art Plan for the Valley Line was that artworks at each stop would reflect the diversity and character of the communities served by the line. This artwork is part of a series of artworks integrated into the infrastructure of the twelve stops. For each stop or station, it was required that artists or artist teams collaborate or consult with local communities to inform their final artwork. The public art call for this stop was directed to Indigenous artists or artist teams residing in Canada.

The artwork is integrated into the glass of the shelters at the stop. The artwork's juxtaposition of the past and present was important to the artists and can be seen in the interplay of modern Mill Woods passengers and the representations in the artwork - allowing commuters to look through the eye of the buffalo while standing within the glass transit shelter, for example. A future element of programming the site will be a sound walkway leading up to the stop, which will feature sound art and music, including the “Wake-up Song” sung by Cheryl L’Hirondelle.


The collaborative art process involved consultation and research with local Indigenous Elders and knowledge holders, which contributed to the selection and development of imagery and symbols used in the final artwork. With support from the EAC, the artists consulted with Papaschase Chief, Elder, and Papaschase members. A workshop and drum ceremony were held, which held the foundation to build relationships between the artists and the community.

From the workshop, the artists were introduced to Paspaschase member Cheryl L’Hirondelle, a contemporary sound artist. L’Hirondelle shared several songs including “waniska” or the “Wake-up Song” included in the final artwork using syllabics. Elder Fernie Marty, Papaschase members, the artists, and others offered tobacco to set their intentions for the artwork. Final designs received feedback from Papaschase members and Papaschase member Cheryl L’Hirondelle was officially added as a collaborating artist for the final project. These conversations and activities informed the project and the focus on Papaschase histories and contemporary connections of MIll Woods while also locating it within a matrix of contemporary Mill Woods neighbourhood.

Additional Information

A pipe ceremony was held after the completion of the artwork to invite the local community to steward the artwork images and song syllabics. The ceremony, held on Earth day 2022, brought together the artists, all partners of the project, representatives of local contemporary Indigenous artist collective Ociciwan, and an Elder to mark the installation of the artwork in a good way. All partners of the project include: the artists (Tania Willard, Peter Morin and Cheryl L'Hirondelle), the Edmonton Arts Council, and The Valley Line Project consortium: TransEd, Dialog/CTP, and The City of Edmonton. The artwork was fabricated by Goldray based in Calgary, AB.