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Diefenbaker Centre exhibits highlight Indigenous experience

New exhibits at USask explore Canada’s dark history and the resilience of Indigenous People
Deifenbaker Centre exhibit (Small)
Exhibit created by The Muse - Lake of the Woods Museum uses powerful images, text, video, archival material, and personal recollections. (

SASKATOON – Two new exhibitions at the Diefenbaker Canada Centre on the University of Saskatchewan campus will showcase the experiences of many Indigenous children who attended and were deeply affected by Canada’s residential school system. The exhibits will also provide visitors with an opportunity to reflect on their path with reconciliation.

The first exhibit created by local artist Carol Wylie, They didn’t know we were seeds, features a series of 18 portraits of Residential School and Holocaust survivors. Having recognized many similarities between the accounts of Holocaust survivors and those of the 150,000 Indigenous children who attended residential schools in Canada, Wylie embarked on a journey to document their experiences. 

“They didn't know we were seeds uses portraiture to explore themes of shared trauma and resilience related to Holocaust and Residential School experiences,” said Wylie. “It is hoped that the encounter and time spent with images of these extraordinary survivors will open hearts and minds to understanding and compassion.”

The second exhibit created by The Muse - Lake of the Woods Museum, bakaan nake’ii ngii-izhi-gakinoo’amaagoomin: we were taught differently – the indian residential school experience, explores the experiences of Indigenous children who attended Cecilia Jeffrey and St. Mary’s Indian Residential Schools in Kenora, Ont., and six other schools in Treaty 3 territory. The exhibit uses powerful images, text, video, archival material and personal recollections to touch on the history and legacy of the residential school system, life in the schools, the settlement agreement and apologies by both government and the church.

“As the Diefenbaker Canada Centre explores its role in reconciliation, we look for opportunities to listen, learn, collaborate, educate and inspire dialogue on the history of cultural genocide in Canada — specifically as it relates to the First Peoples of this land,” said DCC Curatorial, Exhibits and Collections Manager Heather Fraser. “We will continue to do so as part of our commitment to reconciliation and our response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.” 

Both exhibits opened at noon Nov. 17, and will run through to February 2022. Funding to bring the second exhibit to the DCC was provided by the Government of Canada.

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