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‘We need each other’: Sask. stone carver finds acceptance, love through his work

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Lyndon Tootoosis learned the art of stone carving at a young age, but it was through stone carving that he learned about himself.

Tootoosis, a Cree artist and storyteller who is a member of the Poundmaker Cree Nation, is a presenter during Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling Month, which includes virtual presentations and workshops throughout February. His presentation, Stories through Stone, takes place on Wednesday.

Tootoosis told Saskatchewan Weekend that he was around 12 years old when he began stone carving. At that time, his father had to learn how to make pipes for ceremonies. An elder his father visited told him that stone carving was best learned at a young age.

Through carving, Tootoosis was taught about respect and honour — something he weaves into his work today at his studio in his yard.

Tootoosis’ ability to carve stone into sculptures has come from over 27 years experience working as an artist. (Submitted by Lyndon Tootoosis)

“I always have a fire going, I burn smudge when I start, I pray with the rock,” he said. “I don’t just carve birds and bears. I incorporate our stories and legends that have carried our people.”

Caught between two cultures

Tootoosis’ mother, a non-Indigenous woman from West Virginia, met his father, an Indigenous man, while he was working in a lumber mill in Montana.

Tootoosis said the combined cultures in his family caused hurt when they moved to Saskatchewan. Kids on the school bus would tease him about his mother being non-Indigenous, while kids at school in the nearby town of Cut Knife would tease him about his father being Indigenous. It created “ugliness” inside him, he said.

Saskatchewan Weekend15:20Stone carver Lyndon Tootoosis shares stories during Aboriginal Storytelling Month

Stone carver Lyndon Tootoosis has many stories to tell about his own life and that of his family. He shares some of those stories with host Shauna Powers and reminds us why love, acceptance and understanding are so important. He’s one of the featured guests during the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling month. Learn more at www.lssap.ca. 15:20

“My dad built [our] house on the south end of the reserve because at the time they didn’t want a white woman living on the reserve,” he said.  

“You would think I grew up prejudiced. Prejudice is when you hate one type of human because of one specific thing. I hated everyone equally,” he said with a laugh.

Overcoming the hate

Even as he continued making pipes with his father, Tootoosis said it was hard for Indigenous people to accept him for who he was.

But he learned to channel love through his stone carving work.

Tootoosis created this rock memorial to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls on the grounds of the RCMP Depot Division in Regina. (Submitted by Lyndon Tootoosis)

One example was through a sculpture he built on the grounds of the RCMP Depot Division in Regina as a memorial to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Although he claims the city and RCMP balked at having a memorial there, he collected and moved 1,071 rocks — the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at that time — from a rock pile he had access to along Last Mountain Lake, and constructed the memorial.

“We’ve got to love each other,” he said. “In our tradition, that rock represents our ancestors. They’re here to remind us of how insignificant we are. We need animals, need the plants to feed us. But most of all, we need each other.”


Lyndon Tootoosis learned the art of stone carving at a young age, but it was through stone carving that he learned about himself.

Tootoosis, a Cree artist and storyteller who is a member of the Poundmaker Cree Nation, is a presenter during Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling Month, which includes virtual presentations and workshops throughout February. His presentation, Stories through Stone, takes place on Wednesday.

Tootoosis told Saskatchewan Weekend that he was around 12 years old when he began stone carving. At that time, his father had to learn how to make pipes for ceremonies. An elder his father visited told him that stone carving was best learned at a young age.

Through carving, Tootoosis was taught about respect and honour — something he weaves into his work today at his studio in his yard.

Tootoosis’ ability to carve stone into sculptures has come from over 27 years experience working as an artist. (Submitted by Lyndon Tootoosis)

“I always have a fire going, I burn smudge when I start, I pray with the rock,” he said. “I don’t just carve birds and bears. I incorporate our stories and legends that have carried our people.”

Caught between two cultures

Tootoosis’ mother, a non-Indigenous woman from West Virginia, met his father, an Indigenous man, while he was working in a lumber mill in Montana.

Tootoosis said the combined cultures in his family caused hurt when they moved to Saskatchewan. Kids on the school bus would tease him about his mother being non-Indigenous, while kids at school in the nearby town of Cut Knife would tease him about his father being Indigenous. It created “ugliness” inside him, he said.

Saskatchewan Weekend15:20Stone carver Lyndon Tootoosis shares stories during Aboriginal Storytelling Month

Stone carver Lyndon Tootoosis has many stories to tell about his own life and that of his family. He shares some of those stories with host Shauna Powers and reminds us why love, acceptance and understanding are so important. He’s one of the featured guests during the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling month. Learn more at www.lssap.ca. 15:20

“My dad built [our] house on the south end of the reserve because at the time they didn’t want a white woman living on the reserve,” he said.  

“You would think I grew up prejudiced. Prejudice is when you hate one type of human because of one specific thing. I hated everyone equally,” he said with a laugh.

Overcoming the hate

Even as he continued making pipes with his father, Tootoosis said it was hard for Indigenous people to accept him for who he was.

But he learned to channel love through his stone carving work.

Tootoosis created this rock memorial to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls on the grounds of the RCMP Depot Division in Regina. (Submitted by Lyndon Tootoosis)

One example was through a sculpture he built on the grounds of the RCMP Depot Division in Regina as a memorial to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Although he claims the city and RCMP balked at having a memorial there, he collected and moved 1,071 rocks — the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at that time — from a rock pile he had access to along Last Mountain Lake, and constructed the memorial.

“We’ve got to love each other,” he said. “In our tradition, that rock represents our ancestors. They’re here to remind us of how insignificant we are. We need animals, need the plants to feed us. But most of all, we need each other.”

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