“In Memory of My Grandfather” is a work of personal healing, a tribute to my ancestors, and a means of empowerment and reconciliation for Indigenous peoples and Nations by sharing our ‘truth’ surrounding the legacy of the Residential School System. This piece is a depiction of two layered images; a photograph of three boys who attended a residential school juxtaposed with an image of what was Garnier Residential School in Spanish, Ontario. This was the institution my Grandfather was forced to attend in accordance with Federal Indian Policy (note: the boys in the drawing did not attend Garnier Residential School). The three children in this piece display steadfast emotion, as they stand strong in the face of cultural genocide. The children’s positioning against the facade of the institution contrasts the historical damage, displaying their strength and courage in the face of adversity.
The combination of the two images speaks to the legacy of residential schools, as the identity of generations was forced to be forged and rooted in foreign institutions. The children reflect a moment in history where sadness, anger and fear were instilled into the most vulnerable members of our Nations, the children. The spirits of the countless children part of the residential school system were to be destroyed in the name of “civilization.”
The building that once was Garnier Residential School is now run down and derelict, reflecting the effects it has had on its students, as well as the intergenerational effects in our Nations. There is a personal connection for me in this work because the work is made in honor of my Grandfather, a survivor of the residential school system, a child who is part of Canada’s dark history. As a Kanienkehaka woman and artist, the intergenerational effects of Residential School are inescapable; through the use of art as a therapeutic process, I endeavor not only for personal healing but the healing of our Nations. “In Memory of My Grandfather” has allowed me to reflect on the struggle of the colonized, and to help me take steps forward to continue my road towards decolonization. In doing so, the drawing reminds us of our past; that there must be recognition and healing in order to move forward for the betterment of our future generations.