NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Residents share memories
Artifacts collected for Witness Blanket, a commemoration of residential schools

Shawn Giilck
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, October 10, 2013

Residents from Inuvik and around the Mackenzie Delta delved into the painful past of the residential school legacy last week when the Witness Blanket Project came calling.

NNSL photo/graphic

Inuvik resident Lucy Kuptana, left, was one of the people participating in the Witness Blanket program last week. With her is Rosy Steinhauer, the co-ordinator of the project which will create a national monument to the residential school legacy. - photo courtesy of Cody Graham

B.C. First Nations artist Carey Newman is creating a national memorial as part of the national Truth and Reconciliation Committee's mandate to commemorate the students of residential schools.

His project is called The Witness Blanket and will feature donated items collected from across Canada.

His team, led by Rosy Steinhauer, was in Inuvik for four days last week meeting with residents from around the region. She was busy collecting their stories as well as items to be used in the Witness Blanket project.

One of those people was Mayor Floyd Roland, who Steinhauer said shared memories of his father's time in a residential school in the Shingle Point area.

"We're collecting pieces from all of the residential school locations across the country," Steinhauer said. "All of those pieces will be mounted on the installation that Carey is creating. My role is the collector. I work ahead of time to make connections with the communities, tell them about the project and go into each community and collect pieces there."

She and her team spent two-and-a-half days in Inuvik on the project. They also spent a full day visiting Aklavik and Shingle Point, collecting items and recollections from residents there.

"Where Carey is building the physical art, at the same time we're creating a virtual website of the installation. You'll be able to click on

an individual piece, and

a story of it will come up. You'll have information on who contributed it and a video

clip on the story.

"We would never go in on our own or uninvited by the community," Steinhauer said.

In many cases, the schools are long gone, but pieces and certainly memories remain.

Inuvik has one of the last standing residential schools in Sir Alexander Mackenzie School, which is slated for demolition. Samuel Hearne Secondary School was torn down earlier this year.

Steinhauer also met with representatives of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, which has been asked to donate a piece for the project.

Their work also included a tour of Ingamo Hall with executive director Brenda Jerome.

Newman became involved in the project because his father was a survivor of the residential school system.

The concept, he said in a telephone interview, came to him in a dream.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.