I heart North Bay: Part II

March 9, 2010

One of the central issues in any truth and reconciliation commission is that of the relationship between visibility and invisibility. Often, these commissions focus on a previously denied, suppressed, or obscured history and seeks to bring this past into the present. In the Canadian context, the way survivors of the Indian Residential Schools share their experiences will take many shapes and forms. In addition to testimonies and narratives, people will tell their stories by contributing to a new visual archive as well.

At the recent conference in North Bay, several Nipissing First Nation community members came forward to discuss their experiences and the legacies of the Indian Residential School system. Some of these speakers made the issue of the residential schools visible in different ways.

Chief Marianna Couchie spoke of her father’s experience at the Garnier Indian Residential School. She had made a special t-shirt printed with her father’s assigned number  and initials of the school. She explained that he was at times only referred to by his number: 76.

Doreen Bellaire also spoke of the legacy of the schools. She held up a collage of materials left behind by her mother, Delina Commanda, a woman she described as incredibly strong. Delina attended the Industrial Residential School for Indian Girls in Spanish, Ontario. The collage was compiled from her mother’s writing, photos, a set of keys, and buttons among other mementos.

Thank you to Marianna and Doreen for allowing me to share their stories and images at tracingmemory.com. And thank you to all those people at the conference who shared their experiences.

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