Marvin Johnson received a certificate of appreciation on Thursday morning from president Laurie Rancourt on behalf of the college for donating six canvas paintings and one “spirit shield painting” to the gathering space, which was designed to be a welcoming place for Aboriginal students to study and socialize.

Johnson is a self-taught painter who’s art is deeply influenced by his Cree heritage, as he is originally from the Fisher River Cree Nation in Manitoba. He said he was pleased to be able to add to the new gathering space.

“It’s important for the Aboriginal students who come here to feel comfortable, and for me, to pass on the gifts that I have and the teachings that I have and put them up in a gathering space like this is very good,” he said.

Johnson said he tries to communicate stories and teachings of the Cree heritage through his artwork. For example, he said his painting depicting wolves represents the teaching of humility, while the painting depicting a goose and an eagle represent love.

“In our teachings, the goose, once it finds a mate, that’s it – even after a mate dies, the goose won’t find another. It’s the same with the eagle, once it finds a mate, that’s for life.”

He said the spirit shield is a symbol of protection, and the painting on it represents elements of the seven pipe teachings of the Cree culture. He said, for example, the tepee and the Elders depicted represent community, while the smoke in the shape of a bear represents courage and bravery.

Theresa Gladue, Aboriginal education coordinator for the campus, said while the gathering space is open to students of all backgrounds and cultures, it is fitting that most of the artwork is Cree because Dawson Creek is located in traditional Cree territory and most of the Aboriginal students who attend the campus are Cree.

“It’s really nice to have your heritage displayed in the area you live in,” she said.

The artwork can be seen in the gathering space, which is located on the north end of the campus’ main building, next to the cafeteria.