Native Inmate Welfare Committee Spirit Bear at Pacific Settlement Art Contest with design put on orange t-shirts – FVN
Fraser Valley (CSC Correctional Service Canada/Sara Burroughs, Social Programs Officer, Pacific Institution) – Last summer, Canadians were saddened when hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children were discovered in residential schools across Western Canada. By September 30, the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, hundreds more had been identified on the grounds of former residential schools in various other parts of Canada. People from across the country, including inmates at Pacific Institution, wanted to highlight the importance of honoring survivors and recognizing the impact of the residential school system on Indigenous communities and individuals.
Pacific Institution’s Spirit Bear Aboriginal Inmate Welfare Committee held an art contest for the entire prison population to promote truth and reconciliation.
“This idea was originally the Spirit Bear Aboriginal Wellness Committee, and we [staff] were more than happy to help,” said Peter Lang, Assistant Warden, Interventions, Pacific Institution. “It gives me a great sense of pride to see these men devoting their heart and soul to their art, but it gives me an even greater sense of pride, as a Métis man, to see them help Aboriginal charities. from the community. »
Lang is also the volunteer president of Metis Chilliwack.
The original intention was to put the winning design on an orange shirt. The orange shirt was adapted as a symbol of the residential school system and its survivors after Phyllis Jack Webstad shared her story of attending residential school.
“Like any other kid going to school, they usually wear a new outfit, and for Phyllis it was no different — or so she thought,” said Acting Indigenous Liaison Officer Shawnee McKay. at Pacific Institution. “Phyllis’ grandmother had bought a shiny orange shirt so she would have a new outfit for school. But when she arrived they stripped her naked, including her orange shirt, and she was never seen again.
The project touched close to home for some of the detainees.
“Discovering unmarked graves that I had heard of as a child, and also as a Residential School Survivor, brought back many sad memories for me,” said the Chairman of the Aboriginal Inmate Welfare Committee by Spirit Bear. “I had my own personal struggles. At first I was angry, which only put me in places like prisons. Now anger is not who I am. I’m better than that. That’s why I want to give back to those who aren’t there yet. Hatred and anger can be replaced with love and respect.
The committee received 15 artistic submissions. The winning submission is now featured on Pacific Institution’s custom-made orange shirts. T-shirts featuring the winning design will be available for purchase by Pacific Institution staff, their families and inmates.
All proceeds will go to the Indian Residential School Survivor Society.
The other two winning designs will be painted on murals around the institution. Finalists will recreate their designs on a smaller scale in the Pacific Institution Program Building.