Commemoration, Art and Education
Commemoration, art, and education are all essential parts of truth gathering, healing, and reconciliation.
Art is a powerful tool for commemoration. It can send a message of hope or loss, resilience or reconciliation. It can be an instrument that shares truth and knowledge with a wide audience.
An artist can create art as a means of healing from traumatic experiences, or as a way to inspire action. Most powerfully, art provides a platform for voices that may not get an opportunity to share their stories elsewhere. Public commemorations, through art, can help bring forward the personal stories that show colonial violence. They bear witness to injustice, recognize the human dignity of victims and survivors, and call Canada to account.
The National Inquiry has adopted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s guiding principles on commemoration as we develop and implement our own commemoration initiatives. They were:
- Survivors should be active participants who can advise and make recommendations on projects;
- Projects should strengthen family and community memory and make the history and legacy of residential schools a part of Canada’s history; and
- Projects should support Indigenous peoples’ healing as they reclaim their identities and revitalize their land-based cultures.
We will continue to work with families, survivors, organizations, and governments on future plans to honour and commemorate Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people who have been lost to violence.
The National Inquiry logo, designed by lead artist Meky Ottawa, revisits the traditional roots of female Indigenous expression and empowerment. The design combines the traditional symbols of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit women.
Indigenous women have always been story tellers through the shell work, beadwork and weaving patterns they have passed down from generation to generation. While design differs across the nation, floral prints are often used.
The “dot art” within the flower and leaves of the logo emphasizes symmetry, balance, and harmony and the use of the connected lines also represents our interconnectedness to each other. The black lines and dots that tie it all together represent the traditional tattoos of Inuit women.
Their Voices Will Guide Us
Their Voices Will Guide Us is an educational and outreach initiative of the National Inquiry intended to facilitate critical thinking, purposeful reflection, and dialogue around the perceptions and lived realities of Indigenous women and girls, including members of 2SLGBTQQIA communities. The initiative is designed to engage students and teachers in meaningful learning about the important roles of Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people in their families, communities, and nationals, highlighting their strength, agency and resilience. Many students, teachers, youth and other contributors have participated in its development. The goal of the guide is to help shine a light into the dark corners of our collective history, the impacts of colonialism and racism on the lives of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people as well as on their families, communities, and Nations.
Members of the National Inquiry team are in the process of soliciting and incorporating feedback from educators and from youth as a result of pilot projects facilitated by the initiative. We believe we have the power to change society and outcomes by educating ourselves, our children, community members, and all Canadians. One way of doing this is by sharing the messages of remembering, honouring, resiliency and hope created by children and youth who engage in activities outlined in the guide. Submissions made by schools and classrooms have been added to the Legacy Archive as they are submitted, with ongoing conversations with organizations, families, and groups of educators on its content.
Their Voices Will Guide Us is available under Documents.
The Legacy Archive is an archive that collected artistic expressions, either through donations (from family members of missing and murdered loved ones, intergenerational survivors and those working towards reconciliation), education projects or acquisitions from artists and storytellers with an interest in the subject.
Each piece tells a story and represents the ability to share and preserve Indigenous culture and knowledge. Each piece stands as a place where one’s truth and experience is revealed, as a tool to fight racism and resist colonial beliefs, and as a platform to raise awareness about Indigenous issues and encourage activism. Artistic expressions allow artists to share their voices and participate on an emotional level their thoughts and knowledge about the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people. The Archive’s collection affords opportunities for healing and commemoration for Indigenous people who have suffered from the trauma caused by colonialism.
The National Inquiry collected works for the Archive for over two years and now this process is complete. The collection features 433 pieces created by 819 people. It is a diverse collection which includes digital music, written poetry, canvas paintings, etched art, books, quilts, and various craft pieces. Highlights includes a miniature red river cart, a sacred rattle, a turtle medicine bag, a variety of Métis sashes, Miskwaabimaag (sacred red willow baskets), a Star Blanket with dream catcher and talking stick, and a statue with 1200 polished stones featuring the names of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls carved into them.
In the future, people worldwide will be able to learn and engage with this art, physically or digitally. The Inquiry hopes the art can be used for outreach, education and research purposes in the hopes that the nation, and globally, people can learn and take action against the horrible injustices against Indigenous women and girls, as well as members of the 2SLGBTQQIA communities by taking on the recommendations that will be put forward by the National Inquiry.
The ReClaim project combines the aspect of ‘remembering’ with the concept of ‘calling forth’, implying a more active, ongoing engagement with not only the memory of those lost, but with the sacred teachings and connectedness that can ultimately help contribute to safety and to healing. This project connects women, girls and Two-Spirited people to the land, to the sacred teachings and to one another. The mission of the National Inquiry – finding the truth, honouring the truth, and giving life to the truth—is realized within this national project, which aims to re-assert presence and power on the land itself as a way of reclaiming the sacred feminine, promoting safety and wellness, and transforming the narrative around Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people. It creates opportunities for families, women and youth to come together to reconnect to the matrilineal knowledge and teachings of sacred Indigenous sites across Turtle Island.
Organized by renowned Métis artist Jaime Black, this program will be available at various sites nationally that are designated ‘sacred sites’ based on traditional knowledge and teachings. Sacred Sites have been under attack in recent years and are frequent sites of desecration ; as such, these workshops will not only provide an opportunity for sharing and learning, but will in a tangible way, re-assert the presence of Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people on the land. The hope is that this program will inspire other, similar actions that will persist beyond the life of the Inquiry itself, and will represent a new way of asserting the importance – and of calling forth – the relatives who no longer walk among us, and the sacred place they hold in community and in ceremony.