Artist, Don Wilkins, Davidson Saskatchewan
Don started with the Red River cart. That's his my signature piece. He makes them 20 per cent larger than real life so they can be viewed more easily from the highway. "I actually just finished my twelfth Red River cart.”
Don currently has five major sculptures positioned along Highway 11. They are one-eight of an inch thick. The big ones have internal frames.
One sculpture represents a surveyor—an iconic figure in the context of Euro-Canadian settlement in the Plains region.
“Surveyors had a huge impact on Metis settlement because of the river lot system the Metis had used to settle at Batoche and along the South Saskatchewan River. The surveyors—often despite themselves—were very disruptive to the Metis life, and their coming to the Northwest was at the root of the ‘troubles’ that ensued.”
Don also erected a cart and ox at Aylesbury; Craik has a sculpture of the Metis buffalo hunter, holding the very effective buffalo gun; and Dundurn has the bone gatherer figure combined with a horse and cart.
“Bone gatherers were symbolic of activities around the remains of the buffalo during the last part of the 19th century, sometime after the great big herds had been decimated. The bone gatherers picked up these white shiny bones that stuck out of the ground before the ploughshare hit the sod, to be processed in fertilizer plants.
“I made the bone gatherer holding a buffalo skull in his hand, pausing for a moment, pondering what life must have been like here years before… just before tossing the skull into the pile.”
Don Wilkins’ works certainly stand out, because of his attention to detail. Yet the sculptures are relatively unadorned. Perhaps this is what endows them with character.
“I have mixed feelings about covering them with paint, so I do not use it. The sculptures have a rusty surface as a result. I have noticed that this way, people get closer and appreciate them more thoroughly.
Most importantly perhaps, people stop for a moment and take in a bit of the significance of the events that took place in time over this territory. Thus, the Northwest is still part of living memory along the Louis Riel Trail.
Saskatchewan Sculpture Locations:
The Surveyor - Chamberlain
Additional Carts at Bethune Rest Area, Highway 15 west of Kenaston, Hanley, Warman, Rosthern, Duck Lake, and Saskatchewan Landing
From pleasant paddock in Prairie pasture I stand
With stable, solid strength and beaded eyes
As urbanites tell tales of such champions that were.
My presence speaks of sheer survival
And stoically I salute herds of hunted friends
Who bulleted through the plains while shining polished flank
Stumbled and fell.
In brown, blanketed shoulders, coated with close comforting curls
I present an emblem of war torn transient traditions.
Not wary, but weary,
By Margaret Luke