Incomplete Archives

September 27, 2011

Balloons for Canada Day and birthday celebrations in Inuvik.

I am still sifting through the notes I took in Inuvik. I spent the last few days listening to recordings and watching footage on the TRC’s website. Unfortunately, many of my own recordings are of poor quality. During the giving of testimony, I didn’t want to be intrusive with my audio recording device. Even though it’s small, I felt that it marked me as an outsider, a researcher there to observe as opposed to participate.┬áSo, for the most part, I pressed record and left it on my lap. Because the room would get cold or warm or stuffy, the sound of doors opening and closing, and the periodic whirring of a fan muffle some parts of the testimony. But even when deciphering exact words is difficult, I can hear the emotion and strength of the Survivors come through.

The recordings are an incomplete archive of what I heard and saw in Inuvik. But I suppose that all archives are incomplete. Sometimes it is in filling in the absences of these archives where the most productive work is done. In the meantime, it reminds me of the courage of those who participated in the Inuvik event.

The IRS TRC’s next national event will be held in Halifax from October 26 – 29, 2011. More information is available here.

Inuvik in Images

July 1, 2011

Petah Inukpuk holds up an image of his grandfather as he gives his testimony to the commission.

Like the IRS TRC’s national gathering in Winnipeg last summer, the Inuvik event is a complicated negotiation between personal, familial and national reconciliation. And like the Winnipeg event, I have a feeling it will be some time before I process and begin to understand these negotiations.

The days are long and filled with emotion. The morning and afternoon sessions (generally focusing on the gathering of testimony and expressions of reconciliation) often contain stories of extreme hardship and abuse, as well as those of resilience and survival. The evenings are then filled with music and cultural expressions; people dance and sing, ask questions, continue to share their stories and create connections.

Tomorrow (Canada Day) is the last day of the event. I’m sure I will continue to think about what I’ve seen here for a long time to come. I hope to post more about the event, but in the meantime, here are a few images from the last few days.

At the welcome ceremony.

The Commission and dignitaries face the crowd during the traditional blessings.

Dancing to "Forty Days" after a long first day.

The "igloo church" not far from the event site.

It begins with drums

June 29, 2011

Watching the stage at the welcome event.

On the night before the IRS TRC’s second national gathering, the small northern town of Inuvik was already welcoming hundreds of people into their community. On the trip up, the majority of the plane was filled with people attending the event. Some discussed the possibility of giving their testimony, others talked about reuniting with other former students, many that they hadn’t seen in decades. Some were calling the IRS TRC event “the reunion.”

In the early evening, the commissioners, representatives of the state and the churches involved in running the Indian Residential School system addressed the crowd in Jim Koe Park. After the opening remarks, and a recognition of the long days of work ahead, the evening’s attention turned to food and entertainment.

Dancers and drummers after the welcome ceremony (June 27)

North of North

April 13, 2011

On a recent visit to New York, I was talking with an American friend about my upcoming trip to Inuvik (to attend the IRS TRC’s second national gathering at the end of June). This is how our conversation went:

Friend: How are things going in Toronto?

Me: Good. I’m planning my trip up to Inuvik.

Friend: Inuvik? Is that like 5 hours north of Toronto?

Me: No way – it’s way further. It’s like…way north. North of north.

But at that point, I realized that I didn’t really have a good grasp on exactly how far north it was. So we google-mapped it. The first image that comes up doesn’t give you a good sense of anything except that there isn’t too much around Inuvik.

If you zoom out a bit, you start to get a sense of how far north it is.

If you zoom out a bit more, you see that it is certainly farther than 5 hours north of Toronto!

The conversation made me realize just how much of Canada, especially up north and outside the urban centers, I have yet to see.

On my way up to Inuvik, I’ll be stopping in Yellowknife too. Looking forward to exploring this part of Canada!

NOTE: The IRS TRC has announced that it will be holding a statement gathering event at the Multiplex in Yellowknife on April 14, 2011. And will then be traveling to some of the other communities in the Northwest Territories until May 12, 2011. More information can be found here.