Christi Belcourt  
b. 1966
Acrylic on canvas 
Collection of the University of Saskatchewan

The work was commissioned by the University of Sasktchewan Libraries with intention for placement within the Law Library.

This painting features some of the species at risk within the river systems, prairie grassland and woodland ecosystems of Saskatchewan.  Christi Belcourt explains the significance of flora and fauna depicted in her work: 

“The plants, birds, fish and other species depicted grow around Gabriel’s Crossing, along the South Saskatchewan River near Batoche. This is a special place for Métis Elder Maria Campbell, who lives nearby, and to many who have gathered there. Members of our lodge, myself included, fasted here and developed our own loving relationships to the land and river. The gatherings held at Gabriel’s Crossing have changed lives. Many dreams and spiritual connections were made. In the life of this mighty river, this is only one tiny spot along its great body, but a site deeply important to those who came to pray, fast and hold ceremony together. 

History was not written about the thousands of years of song and ceremony held on the shores of this river but history was made here, many times over. The river is a life giver and she needs our help now. 

The South Saskatchewan River is in crisis with more water being diverted for irrigation than it can handle. Combined with dams and climate change, summer flows have declined in some areas by as much as 85 per cent. Alarmingly, the Government of Saskatchewan is planning a $4-billion irrigation project that will reduce the flows by a further 10 per cent. 

Saskatchewan’s river ecosystems are vital to several endangered or threatened species on Canada’s species at risk list, including the Lake Sturgeon, Burrowing Owl, Barn Swallows, Hairy Prairie Clover, White Lady Slipper, Northern Leopard Frog and native grasses, all of which are depicted in this painting alongside other species found in the area. 

If you love these rivers as much as I do, speak up for them every chance you get. Stand in the way. Get loud. Water is life.” 

— Christi Belcourt 


Traditional laws come from two specific realms, the spiritual and the natural. It is from this interweaving that humans can seek an understanding of where we fit within the larger world and what our responsibilities are. All the while asking how we can work, in relationship and in constant reciprocity, to be a healthy part of this world and the many systems within it. In this way of connecting, laws are storied for us, through oral history or through song or dance as well as through visual arts. 

Here, Christi Belcourt takes us within the scope of the water teachings, the function of the rivers and all of the inhabitants of that ecosystem. She teaches about birth and life and death, about endangerment and extinction of the resources we all rely on as they are eroded and destroyed before our very eyes, by our own action. She is demanding of us: Who speaks for nature and more importantly, who listens.”

— Marilyn Poitras LL.B. Usask, LL.M. Harvard Law, student of traditional laws. 


Moderated by systems designer thinker Marilyn Poitras, artist and activist Christi Belcourt and cultural advisor Maria Campbell will discuss how storytelling and the visual arts reflect fundamental themes of Indigenous law, and advance perspectives on environmental justice that affect us all.
Artist and activist Christi Belcourt talks with Maria Campbell and Marilyn Poitras about the complex relationships between Indigenous and natural law, environmental justice, and art. This in-depth conversation focuses on her her newest painting commissioned by the University of Saskatchewan Library, Every Dot a Prayer for the Saskatchewan Rivers, which hangs in the University's College of Law library.