The arts play a vital role in promoting understanding and empathy, stimulating conversation and action, and helping shed light on the past so that we can build a brighter and more equitable future. Coming up on September 30 is the second annual National Day for Truth & Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day, in which we take the time to listen, learn and reflect upon the experiences of survivors of the residential school system (click here to learn more about Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s story and the origins of Orange Shirt Day). Here are just some ways in which you can engage with the arts (and other events) to help with that end.
On September 28, from 7pm to 8pm, visitors can take in a presentation by Catharyn Andersen, Memorial University’s first Vice-President (Indigenous), where she will talk about the process of developing the mandate to support Indigenous education, encouraging relationship building across communities and the success of Indigenous students. (Click here to buy tickets.)
On September 29 from 2:30pm to 3:30 pm, as part of its Coffee & Culture series, The Rooms will look at a museum’s role in healing, truth and reconciliation, featuring a talk by Kate Wolforth, Acting Director of Museums and Galleries. (Click here to buy tickets.)
And on September 29 from 10am to 5pm, and September 30 from 12pm to 9pm, visitors to The Rooms can view a selection of short, Indigenous-made films from the National Film Board of Canada’s collection, which will be screening on a loop inside the theatre. Films include Ossie Michelin’s “Evanniup Kilautinga” (Inuktitut version) and “Evan’s Drum,” Janine Windolph’s “Stories Are in Our Bones,” Louise BigEagle’s “To Wake Up the Nakota Language” and more (click here to see the complete list.)
On September 30, The Rooms will offer free admission and will be open from 12pm to 9pm. While there, be sure to check out the exhibits “In Their Own Words: Life for Labrador Students at Residential School” (or click here to visit the online collection); “In the Making,” which features the work of Inuit and Métis artist and activist Billy Gauthier, alongside other artists; and “Generations: The Sobey Family and Canadian Art,” which includes work by contemporary Indigenous artists such as Kent Monkman, Brenda Draney, Brian Jungen and Annie Pootoogook.
Located in St. John’s, First Light is a community-based non-profit that serves both the urban Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities with a range of programs and services. First Light will also be hosting some special events leading up to and coinciding with Orange Shirt Day, including a Community Culture Circle session on September 28 from 6pm to 7:30pm, where participants will make orange ribbon sweetgrass pins (click here to register); an Orange Shirt Day craft on September 29 (click here for the application of interest to attend); and a public Prayer Release event, including Inuit and First Nations drumming and ceremonies, on September 30 from 6pm to 7pm (click here to learn more).
Memorial University will also be hosting a range of events to commemorate Orange Shirt Day. There are currently resource tables set up at five locations around campus, which include an engagement activity as well as information on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, residential schools, smudging and lighting the Kullik. And on September 29, the university will host five smudging ceremonies and lessons across campus, with the last including a short talk about reconciliation and a walk to Juniper House to tie orange ribbons (click here for more information).
Newfoundland & Labrador Public Libraries
The Newfoundland & Labrador Public Libraries have compiled an excellent list of resources for truth and reconciliation, including extensive book lists (available at libraries across the province, or in PDF format – click here). The lists cover an array of topics, including Indigenous history, stories for children, environment and climate change, LBGTQ2+, residential schools and more. You can also check out their collection of books for Orange Shirt Day, as well as helpful resources for parents, caregivers and educators (click here).
Public art is a powerful thing, and we’re fortunate that we have access to so much of it here in our province. Here are some works we encourage you to check out that relate to truth and reconciliation (and other important matters), as well as aspects of Indigenous culture and history.
Crow Gulch Mural
Artists: Marcus Gosse & Jordan Bennett
Location: Downtown Corner Brook
In August of 2021, the City of Corner Brook unveiled a mural by Mi’kmaq artists Jordan Bennett and Marcus Gosse honouring the lost community of Crow Gulch, which was demolished in the late 1960s, leaving about 45 families pressured to relocate. Located where the community once stood, near Corner Brook’s pulp and paper mill, the billboard-sized mural pays homage to the community and the spirit and resilience of its people. (Click here to learn more.)
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Monument
Artist: Jenny Brake
Location: Majestic Lawn, West Street Business District, Corner Brook
Located in the north corner of the Majestic Lawn is a memorial garden and community gathering space dedicated to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls from area communities and across Canada. The circular designs of the commemorative garden include elements of a medicine wheel. Indigenous artist Jenny Brake was inspired to paint the image entitled’ “Don’t forget Me,” translating to “Mukk-aqanta’sualiq” in Mi’kmaq and is representative of both the history of Indigenous women and the present day.
Dorset Doorway/Mother and Son
Artists: Jim Maunder and Michael Massie
Location: Point Riche, Port au Choix National Historic Site, Port au Choix
Located near the Point Riche Lighthouse, “Dorset Doorway” is an artistic representation of a Dorset Palaeoeskimo house which was uncovered at Phillip’s Garden. The artwork encompasses two laser-cut stainless steel arches (4’ wide x 8′ high) placed on opposite sides of a 24’ diameter rock wall. Nearby Mother and Son, a steel sculpture, depicts sealskin preparation. Labrador artist Michael Massie and Newfoundland artist Jim Maunder worked together on these two sculptures. They also collaborated on the two sculptures around Phillip’s Garden, on the north side of the Point Riche Peninsula.
Hunters with Seal/Hunter in Kayak
Artists: Jim Maunder and Michael Massie
Location: Phillip’s Garden, Port au Choix National Historic Site, Port au Choix
Two in a series of collaborative artworks by Michael Massie and Jim Maunder are located along the Phillip’s Garden Trail on the north side of the Point Riche Peninsula. Archaeological excavations indicated Phillip’s Garden was a prime location for hunting and harvesting harp seals for food, shelter, clothing and tools. The two steel sculptures depict harp seal hunting as a way of life for the Dorset people, who inhabited the place more than 2,000 years ago.
Makkovik Mural Project
Artist: Jessica Winters
Location: Frank’s Store, Makkovik
The Makkovik Mural Project, located on Frank’s General Store in Makkovik, is an artist-led initiative. Inspired by the arts she saw while travelling around the communities in the Arctic and Greenland, Jessica Winters wanted to create a mural for her community. She received funding from the Government of Nunatsiavut’s Department of Education and Economic Development and began the project in August 2020. Winters invited four local high school students – Jesse James Ford, Seth Ford, Hannah Gear and Michelle Nochasak – to help with the design and paint the artwork.
Artist: Jordan Bennett
Location: Dr. Hilda Tremblett Wellness Centre, Bonavista
Mi’kmaq visual artist Jordan Bennett created “Pi’tawe’k” in 2019 for the Bonavista Biennale, a month-long contemporary art event on the Bonavista Peninsula. Bennett’s artwork was acquired by the Town of Bonavista, where it remains. Located on the exterior wall of the Wellness Centre building, the design of the large-scale mural comprises an assemblage of art forms expressing the Mi’kmaq and Beothuk cultures. These forms were made with reflective material and are illuminated at night by the headlights of passing vehicles.
Ktaqmkuk – Msit No’kmaq
Artist: Jordan Bennett
Location: Rawlins Cross, St. John’s
Jordan Bennett created the mural “Ktaqmkuk – Msit No’kmaq” as part of the 2018 “Identity: A Celebration of Indigenous Arts and Culture” festival organized by Eastern Edge Gallery. Located in a small green space at the corner of King’s Road and Queen’s Road, known as Rawlins Cross, Bennett’s mural features symbols and images drawn from Mi’kmaq and Beothuk culture.
Artist: Edmund Saunders
Location: Government House, St. John’s
The Honourable Judy M. Foote, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, established the first Heart Garden in the province in memory of the Indigenous children lost to the residential school system and to honour the survivors and the legacy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Heart Gardens are about honouring memories and planting dreams. Located on the grounds of Government House, the Heart Garden was designed in consultation with MUN Botanical Garden and Indigenous groups. It comprises five planting beds containing traditional plants used by Indigenous people for food and medicinal purposes, and five benches inscribed with names of the five Indigenous Governments in Newfoundland Labrador: Innu Nation, Miawpukek First Nation, Nunatsiavut, Nunatukavut, and Qalipu First Nation. The centre of the garden is a heart carved from Labradorite by Inuit artist Edmund Saunders.