VIU News Stories

The Witness Blanket Installation Recognizing Canada's Residential School Era Comes to VIU

A nationally recognized and thought-provoking contemporary art installation about the impacts of Canada’s Residential School era is coming to Vancouver Island University (VIU) this fall.

The Witness Blanket, created by First Nations artist and master carver Carey Newman, is a wood-based art installation made up of hundreds of items reclaimed from residential schools, churches, government buildings and traditional and cultural structures across Canada. The installation bears witness to one of the darkest chapters in our nation’s past. A past that, until recently, was not openly talked about or acknowledged. It is coming to VIU as part of the national cross-country tour of the Blanket, which most recently was installed in Government House for the Royal Visit.

VIU Series to Engage Canadians in the Challenging Process of Reconciliation

It began with the launch of the nationally recognized Witness Blanket art installation and will continue into 2017. Vancouver Island University (VIU) is honoured to announce the start of Reconciliation Road: Join the Journey with VIU, a series of events and activities that support the process and meet the challenge of reconciliation between Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report, released in 2015, included a clear call to action for educational institutions to take responsibility for leading the way in addressing the challenge of reconciliation. For many years VIU has been on that path – one of the University’s fundamental values has been to build and maintain positive reciprocal relationships with First Nations communities and to create a welcoming, supportive and culturally relevant environment for Indigenous students. Reconciliation Road is one more step in the ongoing journey of this work and another way VIU is honouring the responsibility laid out by the TRC.

Imagine you are living on the land, as your ancestors did for many thousands of years before you, hunting, fishing and farming. Your community has its own language, culture, traditions and laws governing your existence.

Then an outside group arrives. At first, there is lots of cooperation and support between your people and the new arrivals – they make agreements with you because you were here first. But as the years go on, things begin to change, and the land you live, play and exist on begins to get smaller and smaller as the new arrivals increase in numbers and take over more and more land. Your story becomes increasingly painful and violent – being forced to move away from home to unfamiliar places, being forced to give up your culture, being cut off from your community, or all of the above.

This is the story shared through the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, an interactive learning experience that covers more than 500 years of the history of what is now called Canada from the perspective of the First Peoples. A narrator and facilitators work with participants to read a script while the exercise proceeds through a history of treaty-making, colonization and resistance.

Challenging Safe Ideas: Dr. Tracey Lindberg Examines Reconciliation at VIU's Second Annual Indigenous Speakers Series

An accomplished Cree academic and writer will explore the complexities of reconciliation at Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) upcoming Indigenous Speakers Series.

Dr. Tracey Lindberg – who teaches Indigenous law at the University of Ottawa and recently published her debut novel, Birdie – will speak at the second annual event, delivered in partnership with the Laurier Institution and CBC Radio One’s Ideas. Her talk, entitled (W)rec(k)-onciliation: Indigenous Lands and Peoples' Respect, Reciprocity and Relationships, is presented by VIU’s Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation.

“I’m going to look at the notion of reconciliation not as a starting point, but as a measure of the health of relationships,” she says. “Reconciliation is supported by a lot of other concepts. I’m going to talk about reconciliation with self, reconciliation with community, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. And then addressing reconciliation with Canada.”