The Witness Blanket is a powerful art installation created by master carver Carey Newman and will be put on display at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).
It is a monument that recognizes the atrocities of the Indian Residential School era, honours the children, and symbolizes ongoing reconciliation.
It’s cedar-frame is inspired by a woven blanket and includes hundreds of objects recovered from 77 communities across Canada where residential schools were located.
The Witness Blanket is currently undergoing conservation at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) in Winnipeg after touring Canada for three years.
However, Newman and CMHR have created a reproduction of the blanket to offer host venues, to allow its stories and messages to continue to be shared.
It was intended to be put on display upon the Exploration Place’s Grand Reopening on June 18. However, when the reopening had to be delayed until the fall, the Exploration Place reviewed every option, and decided to find an alternative home for the installation.
The Exploration Place’s Curator, Alyssa Leier, reached out to the team at UNBC, who were able to find the perfect place to exhibit the Witness Blanket in the Teaching and Learning Centre.
“The collaborative approach of bringing this national monument to Prince George really speaks to the importance and power of the art piece,” says Leier.
“We are honoured to be able to showcase the Witness Blanket and are so grateful for the assistance of UNBC and the Lheidli T’enneh in helping us get it here.”
The exhibition will be available for public viewing beginning June 18 in the Atrium of the Teaching and Learning Building at UNBC but the official opening is set for June 22nd from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
"As we take steps toward Reconciliation, we must continue to educate ourselves and others about the horrors of the Residential School system," says UNBC President Geoff Payne.
"By partnering with The Exploration Place and the Lheidli T'enneh to display the Witness Blanket at UNBC, we hope it will encourage people to learn more about the atrocities that took place and the lives that continue to be impacted by racist, colonial actions."
Lheidli T’enneh Councillor Joshua Seymour said they’re pleased to partner with UNBC and display the Witness Blanket on Lheidli T’enneh territory.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for people to better educate themselves about the dark legacy of Canada’s Residential Schools. The remains of at least 10,000 children lay in unmarked graves on the properties of former Residential Schools across Canada,” said Coun. Seymour.
“We must never forget these kids and their families, and the Witness Blanket will help keep their memories alive.”