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Through creation of this series of powerful and symbolic artistic interpretations, University of Saskatchewan senior art students honoured generations of children who were separated from their families.
Students submitted nine artwork proposals with one selected by Elders for enlargement as a mural. The winning mural was unveiled at a public reception in June 2013.
A portfolio of the artwork has been accepted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as part of a national archive containing symbols of reconciliation. A public Bentwood Box ceremony took place in March 2014 at the National TRC gathering in Edmonton.
In March 2013, STC partnered with the University of Saskatchewan Office of Aboriginal Initiatives and the Department of Art and Art History, to build upon the residential school awareness efforts of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada.
The goal of The Child Taken is to create an artistic commemoration of residential school experiences and continue to educate Canadians about how residential schools have impacted the Aboriginal community and society.
Survivors shared their residential school experiences and post-school personal journeys with students, who blended their own interpretations of survivor experiences and research to create powerfully symbolic art pieces.
Special thanks to Eugene Arcand, Joe Quewezance, Patti Juzicappi-Buffalo and Phillip Ledoux for their willingness to share their journeys.
“This partnership is unique in that it gives both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students the chance to work together in reflection and learning. They will then have the opportunity to translate their new understanding into meaningful artistic symbols.”
--Susan Shantz, department head in the Department of Art and Art History
In late June 2013, the final pieces were presented to the seven STC Chiefs. After understanding the meaning and symbolism behind each piece, it was a difficult choice. As per the Chief's request, the Elders made the final selection of artist Kayla Prive's New Child as the piece that best told their story, and to be enlarged as an 8' x 11' mural.
Plans are underway for the mural to be installed at a prominent location in Saskatoon. In the meantime it has found a temporary home at Wanuskewin Heritage Park.
The artwork served a fitting backdrop for the heartfelt honesty and sharing of personal experiences at the Muskeg Lake Survivors and Family Gathering in Saskatoon.
Susan Shantz, Professor of the Department of Art and Art History and the students were honoured with gifts. The presentation also featured a showing of the Child Taken project video.
Replicas of Kayla Prive's winning piece "New Child" were gifted to each STC member First Nation community throughout late 2013 and early 2014.
Each community has displayed the piece in a meaningful location to ensure the continued education and dialogue about residential school experiences.
The Child Taken project was showcased at the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission gathering in Edmonton on March 29, 2014.
A portfolio of the artwork became part of the national archive of symbols of reconciliation through a public Bentwood Box ceremony at the 2014 national Truth and Reconciliation Commission gathering in Edmonton.
The box traveled with the commission to different provinces and territories where offerings were made to commemorate personal journeys toward healing and reconciliation. The box will be permanently housed in the National Research Centre at the University of Manitoba.
A New Child replica was gifted to Station 20 West at a luncheon in April 2014 as thanks for hosting the student and Elder workshops and for their support of the project.
In June 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada released its summary report, the "Survivors Speak" report and 94 "calls to action." The TRC identified an urgent need for reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples and societies. Universities and colleges across the country are examining how they can make changes within the core of their institutions, engage more effectively with indigenous communities, and become leaders and partners in building reconciliation. The University of Saskatchewan hosted "Building Reconciliation: Universities Answering the TRC's Calls to Action", a two-day forum focused on how universities could respond to the urgent calls to action directed at post-secondary education institutions. Co-hosts were University of Saskatchewan President Peter Stoicheff and Chancellor Blaine Favel.
The Child Taken Exhibit made its first debut outside Saskatoon at the LLoydminster Cultural and Science Centre from March 10 to April 25, 2015. "We're always looking for...something that would be a good conversation piece and get people thinking," said LCSC recreation programmer Sarah Hockridge to media at the opening reception on March 14. She went on to say, "It is an important part of our history and I'm glad that we'll be sharing it with the public."
The reception included remarks from Chief Felix Thomas, residential school survivor Eugene Arcand, U of S Dean of Art and Art History Susan Shantz, and Artists Corinna Wolf and Nicole Paul.
Elders Voice Summit - Victoria, BC
The Child Taken exhibit was featured as part of the Elders Voices Summit in September 2015. The Whole of Human Relations exhibit joined forces with collections from New Zealand, Australia, Scottland, and Coast Salish, South America to depict the similarities in world wide colonial legacies that have created psycho-spiritual histories of indigenous peoples.
About Residential Schools
In the 19th century, the Canadian government created an aggressive assimilation policy designed to integrate Aboriginal children into society through mandatory church-run, government-funded boarding schools.
Designed to replace Traditional knowledge and languages with English and Christian customs, the residential school system removed approximately 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Métis children from their families.
Although not all residential school experiences were negative, many students did experience physical, sexual, mental and spiritual abuse. The breakdown of culturally-formed life skills that shape a child’s identity, particularly through language, parent role modelling and kinship, still impact survivors and every generation that followed. Although personal and community efforts toward healing continue, the larger effects on society are still experienced.
Between the 1870’s and 1990’s, more than 130 schools operated in every territory and province, except the Maritimes. The Gordon Residential School in Saskatchewan, the last federally operated facility, closed its doors in 1996.
To learn more about residential schools visit www.trc.ca