A group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists have created a mural, dedicated to the children who attended residential schools, that will be displayed in Selkirk, Man.
“My grandparents all went to [residential] schools and through that I learned a lot about myself, about the importance of culture and how important it is to keep it and make sure that people can see it,” said Jordan Stranger.
Stranger, from Peguis First Nation, designed Mashkawigaabawid Abinoojiiyag — Stand Strong Children, and thought about his grandparents when creating the mural.
“It hits home for me, because I feel all those feelings and I see that emotion through my own family, and I want to be able to honour them and give them something . . . not just one person, but for the whole community of Selkirk and Manitoba and Canada.”
The mural was funded by Canadian Heritage. It has four 3.6 metre by 12 metre panels that each tell a story about life for Indigenous people in Canada prior to colonization and imagining what life is like post-residential schools.
The project, which was originally supposed to be at two other locations in Selkirk, found a new home at 260 Superior Avenue this week.
Stranger said the art will give people an opportunity to talk about “a heavy topic” that isn’t always comfortable for people.
“We have to put it out there and not be proud of it, but recognize our faults, recognize where we came from and know where we’re going,” said Stranger.
“That’s the most important thing of all.”
Watch for more about the mural:
Collaboration important aspect of project
Jeannie Red Eagle, an emerging artist from Roseau First Nation, has been working toward having more public Indigenous art in Selkirk, where over a third of the population is Indigenous according to the 2016 census.
Red Eagle is the project leader for Mashkawigaabawid Abinoojiiyag — Stand Strong.
“It’s going to be very significant because people aren’t going to be able to miss it,” said Red Eagle.
“It’s going to be in a very public place . . . and it’s going to be right in the location where we have a lot of our other murals already in place.”
To help get the project funded, she partnered with the Interlake Art Board and has relied on artists like Stranger and Charlie Johnston to bring the project’s vibrant colours and imagery to life.
She said the project will highlight the vibrant nature of Indigenous people and showcase what is possible when Indigenous people collaborate with non-Indigenous people.
“If we can do this in public art, we can do that within our community. We can do that within our homes. We can do that in our neighbourhoods,” said Red Eagle.
Joan English, president of the Interlake Art Board, said the project is in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, specifically #83, which calls for Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to undertake collaborative projects and produce works that contribute to the reconciliation process.
“We bring people together in all different walks of life and anybody who’s interested in working with the arts or learning and wanting to become more educated, we open up the doors,” said English.
One of the people who helped with the mural is Grade 12 student John Lodge.
He said he tries to educate as many people as he can about residential schools.
“I think it’s something that people don’t know enough about and they just kind of shrug it off and walk by it, but I think it’s a bold piece of art and it’ll really capture the attention of many,” said Lodge.
He said the artwork will be a nice addition to the city.
The mural is expected to be officially unveiled in May or June.