Wolves of University Drive celebrate ancient Secwépemc history

Created for the 50-year celebration, the new local art installation represents the future of TRU while reflecting on the history of the campus

Created for the 50-year celebration, the new local art installation represents the future of TRU while reflecting on the history of the campus and the traditional lands its habitats. (TRU Newsroom)

While the campus may be closed to many as public health restrictions keep many working and studying from home into the new year, a pack of visitors have moved in to greet us upon our inevitable return to campus life.

Standing proud and on alert from the perch of rocks on the roundabout fixture on University Drive are three hand-cut steel wolves. The pack is the latest feature of public art on campus in celebration of the university’s 50th anniversary.

“Even though the format for our celebration is different than what we had anticipated, it remains important for TRU to celebrate and reflect upon the past 50 years and the next 50 years ahead,” said TRU President Brett Fairbairn.

The prowling wolves were created by metal sculpture Braden Kiefiuk from Armstrong, B.C. Working with landscape architect L.A. West Associates, Kiefiuk uses round rod armatures to sculpt the shapes of North American animals, finishing the creatures with hand-cut and formed steel pieces that execute the details.

The wolves were created from a special unpainted Corten steel, able to withstand exposure to the elements while developing a rust patina without corroding. Keen eyes will make out the welds and hammer marks within the fine detail of the sculptures.

“I tried to capture movement and the beautiful yet ominous look of the wolf,” Kiefiuk said.

Like Sk’elép, the Coyote that observes from atop of the House of Learning building, the wolf is vigilant, and teaches those to hunt and with the qualities to be a successful hunter – named Mélemst̓ye in local Secwepemctsín dialect from Secwépemc oral history. Standing atop locally-sourced boulders and indigenous flora resembling the local area, the wolves represent those teachings on the ancestral lands of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc.

“We also acknowledge that Thompson Rivers University is not the first community of researchers, teachers and learners on these lands,” said Fairbairn.

TRU Vice-President University Relations Brian Daly continued that sentiment of the latest public art installation, part of an ongoing inclusion of public works throughout campus grounds, created by local artists to represent local culture and history further.

“The university is a centre for learning, but it’s also a place where culture and ideas are fostered, so public art is a natural extension of that. Works such as these wolves not only create a sense of place on campus, but they give us a sense of the place and people who live around us,” said Daly.