Honouring Those Lost to the Residential School System
Two years ago, the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced the discovery of 215 unmarked burial sites on the grounds of the former Kamloops Residential School. In the months that followed, revelations of thousands of similar sites revealed a sliver of the devastation settler colonialism has wrought on Indigenous communities. Ceremonies of grief and remembrance followed for Indigenous people for whom the extent of Residential School violence has never been a question.
For the past two years, Nehiyaw and Michif artist Adele Arseneau has performed their own ceremony to honor the children the Churches and governments kidnapped. Assembling by hand 161 cradleboards, each pain-stakingly painted, beaded, and sewn of traditional materials, Adele Arseneau performed what bailey macabre calls “an act of love,” creating “[wîskwêpitâkan] - Sacred Bundle.”
Engaging the tremendous violence of settler colonialism and the world-altering love of Indigenous communities, Adele Arseneau has created an exhibit that places grief and celebration in devastating symmetry. These “Sacred Bundles”– one for every school named in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement – nestled in the soft fur of reclaimed traditionally tanned animal hides - return sacred Indigenous children to the land from which they were stolen. The stolen are represented in their beauty, vibrancy, and connection so that we may witness what violence destroys and the life embodied in every mossbag.