Masters In A Week

I am an Anishinaabe kwe from Nipissing First Nation. Chiefly raised by my Grandfather, my practice has evolved through autobiographical interpretations of my upbringing, heritage and the effects of colonialism on First Nations. My artistic process begins with historical research on an object, event or place, which informs material choices and contextualizes formal qualities.

After I was approached by my Chief to consider creating a monument commemorating Nipissing Residential School Survivors, I began to consider how we might imagine the appropriateness of monuments with respect to Indigenous culture and history.

My proposed research will continue to dig into this line of inquiry through an analysis of the concept and materiality of monuments from an Indigenous perspective in Canada. This research will consider how the monument translates between Western and Anishinaabe epistemologies, and think through how monument then relates to colonization and perceptions that settler Canadians have towards Indigenous cultures. It will enter the discourse and contribute to recent scholarship such as the “Stronger Than Stone: (Re)Inventing The Indigenous Monument” Symposium (2014) and considers the Indian Residential Schools National Commemorative Marker Project (2014).

Truth and Reconciliation

I will build on the topic through an examination of recent findings by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015) by reading through the lengthy full final reports as well as considering it’s 94 Calls to Action. Within that scope I will also be familiarizing myself with the United Nations Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples (2008).

On Site Research

I will be making as many on-site visits as possible to residential schools still standing and otherwise to consider the architectures, space and surroundings. I will continue to work through TRC initiatives and projects such as the recent Mush Hole Project (2016) which was a site-specific installation event that installed visual and performance art in the former Mohawk Industrial Residential School in Brantford.

Survivors

I will be working to interview survivors, not only from my home community, but from other communities such as Six Nations where their residential school closed in 1974. I will also be collecting and researching already documented histories from my own community and my own family including aunties and my grandfather.

Elders

I will be working with Elders from my home community and within Toronto to consider materiality and appropriate customs and ceremony. Within this scope I will be considering Anishinaabe medicines and epistemologies.

Language

It is my intent to learn Anishinaabemowin to truly understand the ways of speaking within the culture. Currently, I know that there are gaps in translation between Western and Indigenous languages, words that are missing. In addition, there are different ways in which the Anishinabeg speak about objects, places and people. It is important to me that these grounds be covered within the context of my research.

Existing Monuments

I will be researching existing Indigenous monuments and public art as well as looking at Indigenous monument interventions which many artists like Jeff Thomas, have explored in their own work.

Materiality

I will be considering materials in the creation of monument and their appropriateness to commemoration. For example, bronze has a history of utilization within Colonial monuments, so is it appropriate for it to be used in Indigenous monuments. What materials have the Anishinabeg used in the past to honour sites, to honour people? Does there have to even be an object, could the commemoration be a gesture?

Site

I will consider the history of the site, whose territory it sits upon and what changes has it undergone since the introduction of settlers.

Issues

  1. In thinking about a Nipissing First Nation Residential School memorial monument, I believe I can safely approach considering a commemoration with an Anishinaabe perspective. Outside of this research, however, when considering the Indian Residential Schools National Commemorative Marker Project, it is important to recognize that as part of the assimilation policies implemented by residential schools, children were taken from many different communities and placed together within these institutions. As a result, there were meldings of Cree, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, etc, each with their own languages and differing customs. How do you adequately encompass so many different nations without presenting the pan-Indian front that is currently problematic when it comes to settler understanding of First Nations cultures and people?
  2. Due to the effects of colonialism brought forth by the Indian Act of 1876, enfranchisement, residential schools, the 60’s scoop and other assimilist policies, much has been lost both in language and in the histories. Even today, we are still discovering hidden histories such as the Pass System in the prairies and the forced sterilization of Indigenous women. It will be important to keep that in mind when considering research may well change within the next two years.

Within the scope of reconciliation, the need for this work is increasingly important in the upcoming years as more municipalities and businesses engage in the TRC process. A recent government inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, I expect, will release a similar report to that of TRC, within those Calls to Action, I am guessing there will most likely be a similar call for commemoration. It is my hope that this research will explore the function and choice of site, space and materials in responding to the urgent questions of how to honour, commemorate, memorialize or mark history and events from an Indigenous perspective.

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