Unique art display brings attention to the residential school experience
A unique blanket is on display at the Millbrook Cultural and Heritage Centre, an artistic creation designed as a symbol of remembrance, and protection bringing attention to the residential school experience.
The witness blanket, standing two metres high and 12 metres long, helps share the history of the residential school system, with stories symbolically woven into cedar wood.
“Most people, as they think of a blanket, they think of a quilt and they think of different sections of the quilt being sewn together. But this is actually a blanket made out of cedar,” says Heather Stevens, cultural centre supervisor.
The blanket is an art installation, created by a First Nations artist in British Columbia.
It contains more than 800 artifacts collected from residential schools, churches, government buildings, and other locations across Canada.
Interpreters at the centre say some community elders have had difficulty looking at the entire blanket.
“Cause it's, to them, it's really overwhelming to see something that they, you know, even a single piece from the blanket might trigger a memory,” says interpreter Jeff Wilmot.
Viewing the witness blanket is an emotional experience for Gord Pictou, whose late father was a residential school survivor.
“When I look at this display, or any time that we're doing that, I think about the people who fought for my father to be heard, for his story to be shared, for the healing that's been ongoing,” says Pictou.
Among the local pieces is a brick from the Shubenacadie Residential School and an old door handle from Nova Scotia's Government House.
The witness blanket has been called a national monument, testifying to the sins of the past, but also representing a future of healing.
“You definitely feel that there's, you know, a presence here and there's meaning to every piece,” says visitor Paulette O’Connor.
The blanket will be on display until November 26, before moving on as part of a national, seven year tour.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Dan MacIntosh