Thursday, 6 August 2015

Viewing the Indigenous Witness Blanket

By Oluwabusola Olaniyan, 1st year MDP student

It was opportune to be in Hamilton during the tour of the witness blanket. I visited the Central Library in Hamilton Ontario to have a feel of the historical, scriptural piece and strengthen my indigenous knowledge awareness with particular reference to Indigenous peoples of Canada and their encounter with the Indian Residential Schools.

Oluwabusola in front of the Witness Blanket

The witness blanket exhibition and tour across specific locations in Canada is in accordance with the settlement agreement established by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is considered a national monument and evidence of the occurrences narrated by the residential school survivors. The Witness Blanket is scheduled for a seven-year national tour across Canada and the artifacts were gathered from the residential school survivors, families, churches and others with memories or relationship with residential schools. The architect of the piece, Newman (Ha-yalth-kingeme), the son of a residential-school survivor planned the seven years national tour.
Indeed, the Witness Blanket reflects the strength of the Indigenous people of Canada. When I stood in witness of this piece, it was an emotional experience for me viewing all that it represented. The Witness Blanket can be described as a wood based-First Nations art installation that explains the adversity during the Residential School era. It is 40 feet long and over eight feet tall. It has 13 panels holding over 800 collected objects and the multimedia design of the pieces connects eyewitnesses to residential school experiences in a personal way. Each viewer of this piece would probably be touched and reflect on it as well as taking a piece into their heart.

Reflecting on the significance of the historical piece as the journey of reconciliation progresses, the Witness Blanket would recount for future generations the true story of loss, strength and reconciliation. Simultaneously, it depicts the price of the Indian Residential School experience while honouring the survivors. Besides, it serves as a remembrance for those children who were lost and it is hope re-assuring for future generations.

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