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Sign Sculpture for White Buffalo Treatment Centre Inc.

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

White Buffalo Treatment Centre Inc. requested a custom-carved log wood sign for their new facility as it neared completion in summer 2021.

The organization provides holistic, cultural, and land-based treatment services and substance intervention for Indigenous female youth.

The artwork's design was developed in consultation with the facility's directors, along with review of the program information published on their website. Consideration was made in inquiring about Indigenous ways of knowing and the significance of cultural symbols.

The basic structure of the sign is a spruce log archway carved with chainsaw and power tools, constructed in a portal-frame, which is defined as a rigid structural frame consisting of two uprights connected at the top by a third member. The top log sits within saddle notches carved into the tops of the columns, and secured with custom-made metal hardware.

A “portal” is also defined as a doorway, gate, or entrance, which is suitable for placement along the highway and turnoff approach to White Buffalo Treatment Centre.

A centerpiece made from a 3-inch-thick slab of spruce wood was sourced from Lost River Timber in the Saskatoon area. The slab was carved and suspended with chain in the middle of the log portal-frame.

The logs were sourced from Top Dog Lumber in the R.M. of Barrier Valley. These particular logs were chosen for their many irregular bumps and knots, which made them undesirable and unsuitable for lumber milling, but they presented truly unique character and artistic opportunity for this project.

Carved along the top log is the organization’s name, “White Buffalo Treatment Centre Inc.”

Suspended at the center is a white buffalo, inspired by the organization’s logo and healing namesake spirit animal which represents their central mission. Elevating the white buffalo above the ground, as if it were running through the air, creates an ethereal and spiritual aura around it.

On the left column, a relief carving shows the silhouette of a female holding eagle feathers and reaching upwards, symbolizing a young woman reaching towards higher spiritual connection through cultural traditions.

On the right column, four flowers in the colors of the medicine wheel grow upwards, representing land-based healing and growth.

The placement of the flowers followed the natural character of the wood, situating them upon the bumpy knots of the log. At the heart of each flower is the symbolic tough core of a knot where branches once grew out from the tree.

Intentionally choosing these “imperfect” features in the wood and transforming them into something strong, bright, bold, beautiful, and full of life is a message of hope and inspiration for the young women that pass by this entryway to healing.

There are bumps in life, but they can be worked around and created into a thriving new reality, reaching new definitions of beauty, growth, identity, and higher purpose.

It was a true honor to work with the wonderful staff at