Forgotten: The Métis Residential School Experience

Exhibit, open to public until January 31, shines light on history of the Métis and the legacy of residential schools

People came together in our atrium for the official opening of Forgotten: The Métis Residential School Experience exhibit this week, which features three 8×7-foot panels that chart the history of Métis through to today and present the lesser-known story of Métis and residential schools. The double-sided panels of silk-screened fabric are joined by artifacts from Métis culture and the schools.

Pottery, bead work, and a fiddle bow adorn a larger-than-life portrait of a Métis family shown in the exhibit.

Pottery, bead work, and a fiddle bow adorn a larger-than-life portrait of a Métis family shown in the exhibit.

Sarah Cook, co-chair of United Way’s Council for Indigenous Relations (CIR) and a United Way board member, thanked The Legacy of Hope Foundation for developing the exhibit, as well as the Manitoba Métis Federation and the Louis Riel Institute for collaborating to present it.

Sarah Cook spoke of the long-hidden nature of the Métis residential school experience.

Sarah Cook spoke of the long-hidden nature of the Métis residential school experience.

Sarah said the exhibit shows “Métis childrens’ unique experiences of residential school students that have been long hidden.”

“As one of our Council members and member of United Way Winnipeg’s Board of Trustees, Reid Hartry, has reminded our Council – the apology offered to residential school survivors in 2008 did not include the Métis.”

Andrew Carrier, the Manitoba Métis Federation’s Minister of Métis and Residential & Day School Survivors, shared that three generations in his family, including himself, suffered abuse in residential schools.

Manitoba Métis Federation Minister Andrew Carrier shared his family's inter-generational experience of abuse at residential schools.

Manitoba Métis Federation Minister Andrew Carrier shared his family’s inter-generational experience of abuse at residential schools.

Children suffered many abuses including starvation, corporal punishment, and sexual abuse. Minister Carrier pointed out the onion and apple displayed in the exhibit – a reminder of what children had to eat to survive when food was in short supply and withheld from students.

“It does talk about being resilient. We Métis are very resilient…we’re looking towards rebuilding our foundation with hope and an understanding of our past.”

Oliver Boulette, left, and Jim Flett provided music for the reception.

Oliver Boulette, left, and Jim Flett provided music for the reception.

United Way Winnipeg President & CEO Connie Walker told those gathered that it is an honour to host the exhibit.

She said previous exhibits hosted at United Way have also helped shine a light on hard and painful truths, including We Were so Far Away: The Inuit Experience of Residential Schools and 100 Years of Loss – The Residential School System in Canada.

“We know we need to recognize the truth in our history if we are ever to forge a meaningful path of reconciliation.”

Forgotten: The Métis Residential School Experience is free and open to the public in United Way’s atrium, 580 Main Street, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday until January 31.

Coming together to shine light on our shared history.

A new exhibit in our atrium tells the stories of Canada’s Inuit Residential School Survivors.

As part of United Way Winnipeg’s ongoing efforts to bring unique communities together for the benefit of all, we’re pleased to announce a special partnership with the Manitoba Inuit Association.

In addition to the few hundred Inuit who call Winnipeg home, our city is also one of the few regular southern hosts to many Inuit guests who come here  to obtain medical services, training, and other opportunities.

Together with the Manitoba Inuit Association and the Legacy of Hope Foundation, we have created a space for Winnipeggers to gain a deeper understanding of our neighbours to the north through a public exhibition called “We Were So Far Away:  the Inuit Experience of Residential Schools”. The exhibit, produced by the Legacy of Hope Foundation, tells the stories of eight Inuit Residential School survivors.

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On Monday, guests from the community gathered to mark the exhibit’s opening.  The Manitoba Inuit Association invited their members and we also welcomed our friends attending the national “All My Relations Gathering” on Indigenous philanthropy being held by The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada (The Circle).

Abraham Ruben was a student at Sir Alexander Mackenzie School in Inuvik, NWT, for 11 years.

Abraham Ruben was a student at Sir Alexander Mackenzie School in Inuvik, NWT, for 11 years.

Udloriak Hanson with The Circle greeted about 70 guests by recognizing their presence on Treaty 1 territory and the homeland of the Metis Nation.

The Honourable Eric Robinson, Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs and himself a residential school survivor, encouraged people to come and see the exhibit for themselves. He said the experience of Inuit in the Residential School System is not as well-known as other Indigenous groups.

Minister Eric Robinson

Minister Eric Robinson

“The photos of this important exhibit and their stories need to be seen by many more people, and I would encourage our fellow citizens and fellow Manitobans to come and look.”

Fred Ford, President of the Manitoba Inuit Association, shared a moving letter sent to him by Theresie Tungilik, sister of Marius Tungilik – one of the survivors in the exhibit.

Fred Ford points at the panel of Marius Tungilik

Fred Ford points at the panel of Marius Tungilik

Theresie’s letter speaks of how her experience attending a residential school in Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut impacted the families in her community.

One of the historical photos in the exhibit: Ikaluit school children, Nunavut, 1958

One of the historical photos in the exhibit: Ikaluit school children, Nunavut, 1958

Theresie tells of the times when it was difficult to talk about the experience with her brother, although in time Marius and other survivors were instrumental in getting people to share their stories. Through this process many have found some healing. In sharing Theresie’s letter, Fred noted that she is thriving, having found the strength for her own healing journey. Marius Tungilik died in 2012 at the age of 55.

Marius Tungilik

Marius Tungilik

Angie Hutchinson, Chair of United Way Winnipeg’s Aboriginal Relations Council, talked about United Way’s Aboriginal Relations Strategy and its goal of building knowledge, relationships, capacity and engagement within the Indigenous community and beyond.

Angie Hutchinson, Chair of United Way's Aboriginal Relations Council.

Angie Hutchinson, Chair of United Way’s Aboriginal Relations Council.

The exhibit, and the brave people sharing their stories, is advancing that goal, she said. “These courageous survivors, who have shared their experiences with the Legacy of Hope Foundation, will educate generations of Canadians and contribute to reconciliation across our nation.”

Closing the evening, Nikki Komaksiutiksak described some of the intergenerational effects of the residential school system in her own family. Drawing from the examples of resilience in her own history, and the inspiration of her daughters, Nikki found strength in the power of throat singing.

Nikki Komaksiutiksak

Nikki Komaksiutiksak

She finished with a mesmerizing performance of the ancient form of singing, developed when Inuit women learned to make noises that would attract animals, in order to feed their children.

United Way is honoured to invite all to our atrium to experience the exhibit for themselves. We know it’s a transformative time and that Winnipeggers are interested in learning more about our full history.

The exhibit open to the public at 580 Main Street from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday until November 30.

Visitors note: the exhibition contains subject matter that may be difficult for some visitors and to Survivors of the Residential School System.

100 Years of Loss Exhibit

From Monday, June 3rd to Friday June 7th, United Way of Winnipeg is honored to present 100 Years of Loss – The Residential School System in Canada, a bilingual exhibit featuring collections from the Legacy of Hope Foundation.

Hosting this exhibit is part of our strategy to grow knowledge and understanding and to strengthen relationships in our community. Developed in 2010/11 to promote a better understanding of the history and legacy of Canada’s residential school system, the display is presented in each official language and serves as an entry point to both the subject matter and to existing resources, available at the Legacy of Hope website.

The exhibit will be located in the Atrium at 580 Main Street and will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily.