The Tree of Peace Saves the Earth

Installation of the quilt


Date: July 5, 2023 - April 4, 2024


MSU Museum
409 West Circle Drive
East Lansing, MI 48824

This exhibition showcases the quilt The Tree of Peace Saves the Earth, quilted by Alice Olsen Williams, an Anishinaabe/Norwegian member of Curve Lake First Nation in Ontario, Canada. The quilt, part of the collection of the MSU Museum, offers visitors a glimpse into Indigenous history and contemporary struggles.

The Tree of Peace Saves the Earth was created by Williams as a powerful tribute to a land dispute in Quebec, shedding light on Indigenous grave sites and sovereign land issues. Through symbolic representations, the quilt narrates a poignant story. The turtle, embodying “Turtle Nation,” signifies the ancestral land of the Anishinaabe, while the towering evergreen atop the turtle symbolizes the Tree of Peace. The structures depicted represent the Canadian Parliament building, and the war clubs beneath the tree call for the burial of oppressive tools. The eagle embodies Indigenous power, with the four-colored circle on its breast representing the medicine wheel—a sacred Indigenous symbol representing the four cardinal directions or the four races of humankind.

Alice Olsen Williams is dedicated to employing quilt making as a means of raising awareness about vital Indigenous concerns. Some of her other quilts draw attention to the plight of missing Indigenous children and women, as well as to honor those affected by the traumatic residential school system. Williams is an acclaimed quilt artist whose remarkable creations have been exhibited extensively in both the United States and Canada.

This exhibition is in conjunction with the Smithsonian traveling exhibition Knowing Nature: Stories of the Boreal Forest which premiered at the MSU Museum on April 19 and is on display through November 12, 2023. Knowing Nature uncovers the biodiversity and global importance of the boreal through first-person stories, taking visitors on a journey from climate awareness to action.

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