Urban Prairie And Murals In Selkirk

September 18, 2022
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Curved panels painted with murals set in a circle in the midst of a tall grass prairie field
A tail grass prairie field in  the Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada, contains a set of meaningful murals

The city of Selkirk is located on the banks of the Red River about 35 kilometres (22 miles) north of Winnipeg, the capital city of Manitoba, Canada. Here you’ll find a small tall grass prairie with a collection of murals honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Urban Prairie

A field replanted to recreate a tall grass prairie habitat

The Urban Prairie sits behind the Gaynor Family Regional Library on 806 Manitoba Avenue. Its three acres were planted in 2014 to recreate a tall grass prairie habitat, one of the world’s most endangered habitats.

A field of tall grass prairie with a single story building with gray roof and a wall of windows in the backgroun
Gaynor Family Regional Library and the urban prairie behind it

Before European settlement, over 68 million hectares of tall grass prairie stretched in a sea of grass from southern Manitoba to northern Texas in the United States. In the 1800s, the region opened up as prime farmland. Within a few generations, 96% of the original tall grass prairie was gone.

When the Urban Prairie was being created, farmers around Selkirk donated mounds of compost to fortify the soil, something herds of bison and other animals would have done in the past. The site was seeded with over 50 different native grass and flowering plants species.

A walking path with interpretive signage borders the Urban Prairie.

Purple and yellow flowers blooming in a field of tall grass prairie
Curved panels painted with murals set in a circle in the midst of a tall grass prairie field

Legacy of Love

In the midst of the Urban Prairie you’ll find a set of murals honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. It was painted in 2021 by artist Charlie Johnston and a group of mentees who were part of the Interlake Art Club mentoring program.

Mural painted in colours of teal, orange, and blue to resemble a turtle shell

Four large panels border a walking path around natural prairie grasses in the shape of a turtle. The outside of the mural is painted as a turtle shell to depict North America. Some Indigenous peoples referred to the continent of North America as Turtle Island. The name comes from various oral histories that tell the story of a turtle holding the world on its back. The inside paintings on the four large murals represent the four directions that align to the life cycles and spiritual paths of Indigenous peoples.

Murals in shades of grey show night scene with howling wolf, a group of people, and electrical transmission towers
Mural in angry colours of red and purple depicts Indigenous people drumming with figures of animals (horses and bison) shaded into the red sky at the sides
A mural in colours of mostly grey and white depicts a woman to one side trying to break through geometrical lines of white and several animals on ice and snow
A autumn-coloured mural shows figure beside a tepee in a field of wheat with a waves of a sea below them and a large turtle to one side and an eagle to the other

Many other murals can be found throughout Selkirk, particularly in its downtown. The block of Manitoba Avenue between Main and Eveline streets contains several. Read more in my post The Murals of Selkirk.

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  • Reply
    Ken Dowell
    September 18, 2022 at 9:52 pm

    Must be very moving to see those murals.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      September 25, 2022 at 9:35 am

      Ken, it was moving. I think the setting made the murals even more impactful.

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