May 23, 2021 brought horrific confirmation from the Tk’Emlups te Secwepemc first nation that they had found 215 unmarked graves on the grounds of the Kamloops Residential School. And we all knew if this happened at one that there would be more. It’s been one year since that confirmation. At the school the children were each known by a number. Out of respect for these found children they could not keep calling them “the 215.” They are instead remembered as Le Estcwicwey , the Missing. As sad as I felt and still feel, I cannot imagine the pain and heartbreak that continues to be throughout their community.
Creating helps me process & try to make sense of what I’m feeling. I had always been intrigued with Indigenous blankets, especially the Chilkat & Star blankets. June 01/21 I decided to make a miniature Star blanket and use my collection of abalone shell buttons to represent the Missing.
The pattern is made of small diamonds pieced together in eight sections. These sections join together to create the eight-point star. The pattern of the star quilt is inspired by the Morning Star. The Morning Star is the last and brightest star in the eastern horizon before dawn. It is believed the Morning Star represents the way the spirits come to Earth and serves as a link between the living and those who have passed. The points symbolize kindness, humility, honesty, respect, healing, forgiveness, wisdom, and love. The points face outward which represents the relationship with family, friends, and the community.
The piece I’ve made is a 12″ square with an added 2 1/2″ border. I chose the colour orange for Orange Shirt Day, “to witness and honour the healing journey of residential school survivors.” The piece is machine quilted & finished with a flanged binding. I had been collecting hand cut abalone shell buttons for years with the intent to make a red & black Haida blanket. I figured here would be a much better use for them. There are 215 buttons attached onto the piece. One for each child found.
Last July I was fortunate to see a replica version of Carey Newman’s Witness Blanket at the downtown library. The Witness Blanket is a large‐scale art installation made from hundreds of items reclaimed from survivors and their families, residential schools, churches, government buildings, and traditional and cultural structures across Canada. It is truly amazing to see and heart rending at the same time. I was also able to get a book about this from the library and would definitely recommend it to you to read. When I can, I will go see the original piece. I’ve also seen the video of the making of this blanket. I have attached a link to that. https://humanrights.ca/story/picking-up-the-pieces-the-making-of-the-witness-blanket
Also attached are some links to the breaking news and stories of Orange Shirt day and reconciliation.
Reflecting on #EveryChildMatters….Valerie Raye