By: Alexander Gatensby
On October 11th 2018, just before noon, a large crowd slowly accumulated near the waterfront at the end of Main street in Whitehorse. These people who gathered from far and wide awaited the unveiling of a monument being presented to honour survivors of the residential schools of Yukon. The monument was covered up by 5 blankets, which would later be removed to reveal artist Ken Anderson’s beautiful piece.
Also being presented was the second edition of “Finding our Faces, History Through Photographs and Stories”, a collection of images and stories, put together with contributions from residential school survivors. The intention of the project being to provide education, and to “document the history and the lives of the students who attended the residential school” according to Adeline Webber.
When 12 o’clock rolled around, project coordinator Melissa Carlick took to the podium to welcome all who came to witness the unveiling and to introduce Elder Barbara Fred who said the opening prayer. After everybody gathered in a large circle, and the prayer was said, the unveiling started with speeches from notable leaders such as Chief Dorris Bill, Adeline Webber, Minister Jeanie Dendys, and Mayor Dan Curtis. The podium then was turned over to Artist Ken Anderson.
“Thanks, everyone for coming today” He started. “With this piece, there’s nine different stools, and that’s meant to represent the nine different language groups that attended the school, and In the middle of the piece is a sandblasted image of the school as it appeared. Each one of the stools is different, contrary to how it was at the school where as I understand the kids all got their hair cut the same and everything… [the monument] is about encouraging understanding, and providing an opportunity for education, for people to learn about what happened, and also provide an opportunity for some empathy.”
After the speeches, all residential school survivors in attendance were asked to help with the unveiling of the monument. Together they lifted the blankets and revealed nine beautiful stools made out of wood, all of them unique. The blankets then were presented to selected people, to take home, and to remind them of this moment in history.