“there were men of good faith
Robbing babies from their cradles
Like the monsters we used to tell each other about
Ripping children out of their mother’s arms
To be imprisoned in the houses of a god
Whose teachings were love
But the things that were done were not love”
On September 30, we recognize Orange Shirt Day in solidarity with Phyllis Webstad whose brand new orange shirt was taken from her on her first day at residential school.
“When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt! I never wore it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”
“Our nation is built above the bones of a genocide”
“We are not free to shed our history
Like an inconvenient skin”
If you wore an orange shirt because every child matters, you can augment your act of reconciliation by vising the Millennium library to view the exhibit entitled Framing Residential Schools Narrative, Landscapes of Resiliency by Vanda Fleury-Green. Vanda has spent the last 10 years visiting the locations where residential schools once stood and has photographed what is left of them. She has made some haunting discoveries.
“and sometimes the medicine we need most
Comes from remembering who we were
So we can reconcile it against who we wish to become
The drum is calling us in”
In this exhibit, you may touch the bricks of the residential schools and witness the tiny baby blankets and child size moccasins that emphasize how young the children were. Some windows have broken glass and mirrors that fracture the viewer’s image in the same way that the students’ lives were fractured from being taken away from their homes. Every object is thoughtfully arranged to carry the viewer into the past for remembering and also forward towards reconciliation.
“Our fight is not meant to be with each other
Our fight is to be better
Moving toward what we wish this nation to be
We can be better”
The Framing Residential Schools Narrative is currently showing in the 2 windows on the main floor of Millennium Library by the New and Noted area. In early December the exhibit will expand into the 8 windows by the Richardson Reading Terrace. In tandem, the exhibit Reflections on Shoal Lake Water is on the 2nd floor in the Wii ghoss area and both exhibits will be showing until the end of February 2020.
“At the core of our values
And yet we strip mine a culture of its identity
Allow our leaders to erode each treaty
And stab flags into the land
As if mountains can be owned
As if water is property
Where is our dignity
If we cannot hold true to the promises we make?”
Winnipeg draws its drinking water supply from Shoal Lake and the undignified building of the aquaduct is a constant reminder of broken promises for Kekekoziibii, the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation who were displaced, isolated and robbed of their own drinking water. In Urban Eclipse : Rising Tides of the Kekekoziibii, filmmaker Jesse Green travels back to his home community interviewing people about the impacts of the aqueduct in the 100 years since it was built. Through the film, viewers will come to understand the complexities of colonialism; how the web of politics, displacement, residential schooling, and the role of media affected the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.
“If the world brings a challenge to one of us
It brings it to us all
We rise and fall together”
Urban Eclipse will be screened at the Millennium Library on November 3rd 2019, at 2pm in the Carol Shields auditorium. Admission is free of charge. Join Vanda and Jesse as they introduce the film and talk about their journey in bringing their vision to life. Come listen to the beat of their drum, it calls us in.
All quotes in orange are by Shane Koyczan’s Inconvenient Skin Theytus Books. 2019.