Monday, May 4, 2015

Residential schools, resiliency and reconciliation

Currently on display at the Calgary Public Library, is a unique art installation known as The Witness Blanket.   

“The Witness Blanket stands as a national monument to recognise the atrocities of the Indian Residential School era, honour the children, and symbolise ongoing reconciliation.”

 You will see a diverse range of artifacts arranged to represent a quilted blanket.  Items included are door knobs and handles, bricks, old painted wood, children’s skates, bowls, school badges, children’s beaded moccasins, letters, photos, a door from an infirmary, religious statues, part of a piano keyboard and even a couple of braids of hair.  These are only some of the items that have been collected from various residential schools, churches and other government buildings from across Canada.  The whole installation stands above several volumes of Canadian statues that include the Indian Act from 1857 to 1938.

The Witness Blanket is on display until May 9th.  There is a free app that can be downloaded from the Apple store that is well worth getting.  Each artifacts is described and located on a map of Canada and will add even more to viewing.

What a powerful piece of art to tie into literature relating the experiences of some of these survivors.

Very recently, I read The Education of Augie Merasty: a residential school memoir by Joseph Auguste Merasty with David Carpenter.  This short but essential volume is a collection of Augie’s memories of living at St Therese Residential School, in Sturgeon Landing, Manitoba. Many of the nuns and priests treated the children brutally, regularly subjecting Augie and the other children to cold, hunger, verbal and physical abuse, and sexual assault.

I found the introduction and other content supplied by David Carpenter interesting, too.  Where Augie tells of his childhood memories, David gives us insight into the man that he becomes.  In the decade that it took for David to collect these stories we learn of the many ups and downs that befall Augie.  His voice is always strong sometimes with tinged with humor and even regard for some of his kinder teachers.

I’m recommending this title for high school students and older

This book was recently featured on the CBC’s radio program, The Current.  Click here to listen to the interview with David Carpenter.  


Template Design | Elque 2007