Residential School Survivor Drawings & Videos

Research in Art exhibits Residential School Survivor Drawings & Videos, curated by Petra Halkes in 2013.  


Ottawa based Research in Art exhibited the Residential School Survivor Drawings & Videos. The May 2013 show was curated by Petra Halkes.  The exhibition included drawings and videos of Irene Lindsay who is a Board Elder at the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (


Irene Lindsay, a Wolf Clan descendant, from the Cree/Sioux community of Wakaw, Saskatchewan is a survivor of St. Michael’s Residential School in Duck Lake Saskatchewan. As a youth, Irene resided on One Arrow First Nations Reserve in Saskatchewan, she moved to Ottawa for employment, and later to complete her schooling in nursing. Her personal and professional pursuits have consistently directed her toward activities that help to enrich and complement the aspirations of Aboriginal people and communities. She is particularly concerned with the unique challenges that face Aboriginal women and children, and is committed to doing what she can to assist them.


One example of that commitment is demonstrated by her work in establishing a group called, The Wisdom Keepers, a Grandmothers Circle through the Minwaashin Lodge, the Aboriginal Women’s Support Centre. She has also served on the Women’s Council for the Lodge for four years and has been a board member for an Aboriginal Men’s Healing Lodge. Irene is a guest lecturer on Native Culture and traditions for university and high school students in Canada. Her interest in giving back to her community eventually led to a career in the helping profession, facilitating a Residential School Survivors Circle, fund raising committees, numerous health video documentaries to promote awareness of Aboriginal Health Issues, and assisting organizations in developing culturally based programming which benefit all people in accordance with Aboriginal culture and traditions. Irene Lindsay is presently an integral part of the dynamic team that is Minwaashin Lodge, the Aboriginal Women’s Support Centre.


The Residential School System in Canada Overview  

FROM THE WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN SITE Since their first arrival in the “new world” of North America, a number of religious entities began the project of converting Aboriginal Peoples to Christianity. This undertaking grew in structure and purpose, especially between1831 and 1969, when the governing officials of early Canada joined with Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, United, and Presbyterian churches to create and operate the residential school system. This partnership came to an end when the federal government took over sole management of the schools, and then began transferring the control of First Nations education to Indian bands. The last federally-run residential school, Gordon Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, closed in 1996. One common objective defined this period: the aggressive assimilation of Aboriginal peoples.

Métis children, initially turned away by the Canadian government, were later encouraged to fill school spaces left by Indian children. Métis students encountered racism from all sides: they were often outsiders within the student body, and were also treated as second-class citizens when they were made to work longer and harder to “earn” their education. They were not wanted in white schools, but neither would the Department of Indian Affairs recognize them as Indians. With limited options, Métis parents often had to pay for children’s education, and would place them at any school that would take them.

Life at residential schools

The journey to residential schools was often a long one, particularly for Aboriginal children who came from communities that were thousands of miles away. Some could walk to the schools, but many others arrived by wagon, train, boat, or, in later years, by bus. When they remember that long journey, many Survivors recall feeling like they were walking into a prison. When they entered the schools, they were robbed of their identities: their hair was cut and de-loused, they were stripped of their garments and possessions and clothed in uniforms, and they were called by “Christian” names or by numbers instead of their own names. For the few students who had been prepared by their parents, the schools may have initially appeared less ominous, but for those who were taken to the schools by force, the experience was all the more traumatic.

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