It’s a stark, powerful reminder of a tragic time in Canadian history and it now hangs predominantly in the Saugeen Shores Council Chamber.
The artwork, that was created by young local Indigenous artist, Brent Henry, was commissioned by the Town of Saugeen Shores and was unveiled on the inaugural Truth and Reconciliation Day, September 30th (2021).
Saugeen First Nation residents and Henry’s family attended the formal unveiling of the work, that is a reminder of the residential schools which impacted Indigenous communities and the recent discovery of missing children’s grave sites, who died while at the schools.
“When I first spoke about residential schools before it was in the mainstream media, I found a lot of people didn’t know about this horrific part in Canadian history. I felt that I could express my voice through paintings to educate and make it known as to what happened at these schools, and the impact it had on the Indigenous in Canada,” said artist, Brent Henry.
“This painting will hang in the Council Chambers as an ongoing reminder of the pain and suffering at residential schools, and to ensure that, as decision makers, we never forget our obligation to truth and reconciliation in our relationship with our indigenous neighbours and in all that we do,” Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau.
Henry’s work will also be featured in an upcoming exhibit at the Tom Thomson Gallery in Owen Sound and, in the meantime, he has been accepting commissioned works.
Saugeen Chief Lester Anoquot added that keeping the story of residential schools alive is critical for all First Nations and Indigenous Peoples and for all Canadians. “We thank our community member Brent for honouring our story through his art. We also thank the Town for recognizing the past and commissioning this painting as a lasting acknowledgement and promise for a better future.”
“We’ve been working closely with the Town in a spirit of understanding and cooperation. The Town has been listening and looking for ways to build ties and bring our communities together. This painting is a symbol of our progress together. We are grateful to Brent Henry and to the Saugeen Shores for another positive step forward,” said Veronica Smith, Chief of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation (Neyaashiinigmiing27).
In addition to the unveiling, Town Council adopted a resolution on September 27th in support of reconciliation, acknowledgement and collaboration for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The Canadian and Every Child Matters flags have been lowered to half mast and staff were encouraged to wear orange shirts to show support and participate in a collective act of reconciliation.
For the community, the Town has also posted a Public Notice with resources and suggested ways to commemorate and raise awareness of the path to Truth and Reconciliation.