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Monument for residential school children arrives at Canadian Museum of History

‘This powerful memorial is a tangible reminder of events from our shared past’
After a long journey starting from Port Hardy in June, the Indian Residential School Memorial Monument, created by artist Stanley C. Hunt, has arrived at the Canadian Museum of History. (Canadian Museum of History Facebook photo)

A carefully crafted Vancouver Island salute to Indigenous children lost to Canada’s residential school system has found a home on a prominent national stage.

Honouring the lives of children removed from their families, the Indian Residential School Memorial Monument by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Stanley C. Hunt ends its journey at the Canadian Museum of History, where it will become part of the national collection.

In May 2021, national news outlets announced confirmation of unmarked graves of Indigenous children at a residential school site nearKamloops. Inspired by this, Hunt carved a series of 130 unsmiling faces, each representing an individual child. The faces are outlined in orange, and the 5.5-metre (18-foot) monument has been painted black.

“The monument tells the truth about a time in our history that was dark.The monument identifies all the participants. The monument is black washed to mark that dark history. Orange to mark every child does matter,” Hunt said in a release.

“I did not write the history of Canada. I am marking a time in our history and to give our children a voice. The raven is cradling the seed of life in his beak. This raven has been created to help call our children’s spirit’s home. This raven will help us find and to identify the children. Through research and through DNA, my hope is to name all the children that are found. How would we ever know what these children could have become, if they were able to live a long and prosperous life?

“I am honored to have this monument stand in the Canadian Museum of History. One hundred years from now, 500 years from now, the Indian Residential School Memorial Monument will be standing and still telling this story.”

Hunt is Kwagu’l from the village of Tsaxis (Fort Rupert) near Port Hardy and comes from a long line of distinguished Kwakwaka’wakw artists. The Museum of History is also home to his carved mask, Kwa-giulth Moon.

“This powerful memorial is a tangible reminder of events from our shared past,” said Caroline Dromaguet, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of History in a media release. “Its acquisition and eventual display in 2024 gives us new opportunities to spark national conversations related to reconciliation and the residential school system.

“We hope that visitors will not only be moved by the monument’s rich symbolism, but also be inspired to engage in thoughtful discussion and reflection around a difficult chapter in this country’s evolving story.”

Completed last June, the monument began its cross-country tour in British Columbia, with logistical and transportation support from the Canadian Coast Guard and the RCMP. It was part of a special ceremony in Vancouver for National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, and from Sept. 6 to Oct. 10, the monument was available for viewing at the RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina, where it helped mark Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

Hunt will travel to the museum in the coming months to discuss monument’s placement and public engagement, as well as to record an oral history interview related to the project.

Located on the shores of the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec, the Canadian Museum of History welcomes more than 1.2 million visitors each year.

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