The Witness Blanket

Today is National Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada. This is a day that has been set aside each year to help forge a path toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples on this land. The history of how Canada came to be is rife with examples of mistreatment of the Indigenous peoples who were already here when European voyagers arrived. The effects of such mistreatment are still being felt today. One of the many examples of this was the formal Government of Canada policy that was designed to forcibly assimilate the Indigenous population into the non-Indigenous, settler population. This was attempted via an odious policy that gave rise to something called The Residential School System. Because of this formal government policy, Indigenous children were taken from their families and sent to schools hundreds of miles from their homes. These schools were often run by religious missionaries and priests. Most Indigenous children who were sent to a residential school ended up suffering physical and sexual abuse, they were denied the right to speak their own languages or wear their own clothes. Their hair was cut short. I could go on and on when endless examples of cruelty. The bottom line is that many of these children died at these residential schools from the abuse and neglect they experienced there. As of the writing of this post, thousands of dead bodies have been located at the now-defunct school sites. How many more dead children lay under the ground, yet to be found? I cannot fathom how anyone could be cruel to children. We should protect them and nurture them as if our own lives depended on it. And yet, the little bodies continue to be found and the pain goes on and on, with no end in sight.

If this post is your introduction to the history of this land then I encourage you to check out a website called The Witness Blanket. This website is a respectfully and thoughtfully created account of the Residential School System as told in the words of those who went there and never returned, as well as those who survived the experience but were forever changed by it. The Witness Blanket website is the very best website of its kind that I have ever seen. As a non-Indigenous person, I am grateful for this open door that is being granted to me and to all other non-Indigenous people who may read this post. It is impossible to ever fully repair the damage that such harmful government policies have done but by taking the time to educate ourselves as to how Canada came to be, hopefully we can all begin our journey toward reconciliation. You can click on The Witness Blanket website here.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Thank you to those who helped create The Witness Blanket website. The Witness Blanket project began with an art installation created by Indigenous artist named Carey Newman. This art installation uses objects associated with those who were at residential school. IF only those objects could talk, the stories they would tell….well, thanks to The Witness Blanket, these objects can talk. We would do well to listen.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

2 thoughts on “The Witness Blanket”

  1. Hey, Tom. I hope you don’t mind. I am going to use your post as a guide for a post of my own, but I am going to use much stronger language than you are using. I mean no disrespect, but while your post introduces the history and purpose of the Witness Blanket, it does really get to ghe depth of the tragedy. You are not indigdnous, so I think it is hard to know how deep the feelings go. You are trying, that is the important part, and I thank you for that. And maybe I won’t get it right myself, I was fortunate enough not to be sent to Residential School. But I do know some of the racism directed towards Indigenous peoples, and the effects of colonialism that you cannot be expected to feel as we do. So, my gratitude to you. Thanks for bringing my attention to it.

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