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Residential school survival

An exhibit representing the personal stories of First Nation survivors of the residential school system in Canada, opened this week at the Penticton Museum.

"A Long Journey Home: Life After Residential School," will run until Sept. 5 in the museum's Atkinson Gallery.

"It's an important part of Canadian history that needs to be told and we are honoured that members of the Okanagan First Nation community have come forward to share their stories," said museum curator Peter Ord.

Ord initiated the project two years ago, to coincide with a lot of the public consultation sessions on the issue of residential schools.

It goes beyond focusing on the stories of the young children who were taken away from their families to attend schools far from their traditional communities.

Instead, it centres on the experience of survivors in their adult years, a time of personal struggle to endure and reconcile the memories of their time at school.

The exhibit is represented in three parts. Visitors will first encounter a comprehensive history of the schools in Canada by the Legacy of Hope Foundation's installation, "100 Years of Loss." 

The second section involves a video series of six residential school survivors from the Syilx community of the Okanagan, all of whom share deeply personal stories of life after returning home.

The recording and presentation of these stories were done by artist members of the Ullus Collective, who provide a cross-generational voice for survivors to share with the general public.

The final section comprises illustrations and paintings from young students who attended the Alberni Residential School on Vancouver Island and the Inkameep Day School in Oliver.

The paintings were provided by the University of Victoria's Legacy Gallery and the Osoyoos Museum on behalf of the Osoyoos Indian Band.

Dr. Andrea Walsh, associate professor of anthropology at Uvic, who assisted in the curating of the exhibit, , says, "all the paintings contain hope. The hope of the child, who in laying her paint-filled brush down on paper, felt confident that her ideas and feelings would be accepted, and the hope of the survivor who has shared his/her childhood in the name of healing and reconciliation."



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