ESTEVAN - For the second time, Sept. 30 was marked as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and Estevan was eager to become a part of the processes of learning, honouring and rebuilding relationships.
The Souris Valley Museum, in partnership with the Métis Nation Saskatchewan Estevan Local No. 25 and the Estevan Art Gallery and Museum, hosted an event to mark the day, with many community members and volunteers joining them at two locations.
The day started off with a come-and-go lunch at the museum courtyard, provided by the Métis group. People, many of whom were wearing orange shirts sharing an "Every Child Matters" message, stopped by to enjoy traditional hamburger soup and bannock. The museum opened their indoor space, as well as the yard and the old school building for visitors to view.
The lunch was served inside the building, and people could choose to eat inside or outdoors. Estevan city council, local organization leaders, Estevan Diversified Services participants and dozens of others stopped by and dedicated time to talk about the cause, while also supporting it with donations.
After lunch, the EAGM invited everyone who was interested to join them at the Woodlawn Regional Park’s free park area for a walk and talk with their artist-in-residence Karlie King from Regina, whose art is on display at the gallery and in the park. A few dozen people joined the walk, which toured the plinth with King's ceramic works.
During the walk, King, who is a Métis artist, shared her personal story and visions and talked about her art and the traditional techniques she used while she was a part of the mini residence at the EAGM. She also invited everyone participating to join her in the conversation about truth and reconciliation and share their views and experiences.
EAGM director/curator Amber Andersen opened the walk at the first location with acknowledgment.
"The Estevan Art Gallery and Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are located on Treaty 4 Territory, the traditional gathering place for the Cree, Saulteaux, Dakota, Lakota, Nakota and formerly Blackfoot. We also acknowledge the traditional homeland of the Métis. We honour their contributions and history. Histories and cultures continue to influence our community," said Andersen.
She added that for her residency, King was invited to stay down at Woodlawn park and source clay for her art locally.
"[King] got to spend 10 days in our community in this park. And these works are representative of what we ended up with after the 10 days of that experience," Andersen said.
"I absolutely loved my time here and I think you have such a gem of a park, and the space was beautiful," King said. "When I saw clay or what I thought was clay, I would gather a small amount and then mix it with the prepackaged clay. Then I'd make what's called a little pinch pot, and then I'd get a fire going. And once the pinch pot was dried, I actually used different things that I had collected and then fired the pottery right in the fire pit in the campground here. That's basically how traditional pottery was done, and I'm learning more about this."
In her art, she used different types of local clay and ochre she sourced in the area. She said that, following traditions, what she enforces when sourcing materials is reciprocity.
"A person should never take without giving. There needs to be an exchange as a show of respect for both parties involved. So when I'm collecting, I don't gather buckets and buckets, just a small sample of what I need. And traditionally, what you do is you lay down tobacco and you say something respectful, grateful before you take anything. I do something a little different,” said King.
“I actually don't have access to tobacco that's not full of chemicals. So it just doesn't feel right to me. [I've heard it from elders] and I just loved it, so I actually give my hair," King shared.
In her art she also used plants, which she was learning about during her residency and shared with the public, asking people to share what they know about local vegetation as the walk and talk proceeded.
After her experience in Woodlawn, she also encouraged the participants to take time to just spend it on the land as a "reconciliatory practice", which would help them understand Indigenous peoples and their ways of living better. She noted that dedicating time to walking and observing nature might also have great effects on health and people's relationships with themselves and others.
"A lot of us are searching for ways to find our true self or be authentic or even just things like lower your blood pressure, be healthier, all these things. And I really feel that nothing does that better than just sitting in solitary ways in nature. It just has a way to unravel you in a delightful way. And there's ample opportunity here. I just think you guys are super lucky. There's just such beautiful places, so find time just to go in and sit and be with yourself," King said.
King's talk was like a quilt, where different pieces would come together beautifully after a period of time. She touched on what the land meant for Indigenous peoples and talked about the residential school system, the meaning of orange shirts, the term reconciliation and its origins, colonialism, healing and more.
"As we know now, the schools were definitely a tool used in cultural genocide," King said. "We wear orange shirts today to remember the story [of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad] and all the other stories, and the residential school survivors.
"My grandpa actually went to residential school. And when they talk about residential school and the effects of intergenerational trauma, one of them is he didn't know how to parent since he went to residential school. So when my dad was young, he left at a very early age. That's one of my dad's first memories. He said, I just remember my dad saying, 'No, I can't do this.' And he just walked down the lane and never came back. Then my dad obviously has trauma and issues from that," King shared while telling her personal story.
"I remember this being said in my family, and now the science is backing it up. But traumas are stored in our DNA. So whatever you're going through in your life, that does get passed down to our children. If you don't heal properly, it just gets passed down," she added.
King encouraged the participants to keep conversations going, and also, as more resources become available, to learn more about history to better understand what happened.
The walk took people around to four plinths, and the talk was deepening along the way.
King's art in the park will be on display until Oct. 7, and in the EAGM until Nov. 4.