Statement from President Russell for opening of exhibit on residential schools
HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, LABRADOR, September 30, 2020 – The NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) was invited to participate in the exhibition opening of “In Their Own Words: Life For Labrador Students at Residential Schools” at The Rooms in St. John’s this evening. It was hosted by the Healing and Commemoration Project Advisory Committee and The Rooms.
President Todd Russell issued the following statement for the exhibit opening:
“It is an honour to share some thoughts with you on behalf of the NunatuKavut Community Council, NunatuKavut Inuit and members. It is quite fitting, and deliberate I’m sure, that this exhibit opening is taking place on Orange Shirt Day, a day set aside to encourage meaningful discussion about the impacts of residential schools and the legacy it has left behind.
It is also happening the same week as the demolishment of the Lockwood School in Cartwright. It is a school which has featured prominently in the history of Residental Schools in Labrador and in the experiences and stories of many of our people and families.
This new exhibit tells the stories of former students, like those from Lockwood, who showed great courage, conviction and trust in sharing their truths and experiences. I respect and honour each of them for sharing and giving of themselves in such a profound and meaningful way. These experiences are real and have touched and changed the lives of so many of our people and families.
Our people carry these stories out on the ice when they hunt, on the land as they harvest and in their homes as they sit with family at the table. These truths are a part of who we are and how we will live into the future.
Keeping these stories alive is an important part of healing and reconciliation. Positive change will take place when concerted efforts are made to acknowledge and learn from past wrongs and strive to do better. And acknowledgements and apologies are important because they open the space for acceptance and for positive change to become possible.
I am hopeful that this exhibit is another step in educating and contributing to this change. Senator Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, said it best when he said that ‘education holds the key to reconciliation. It is where our country will heal itself.’
He went on to say ‘we need to tell the story of…Residential Schools, to change the school curriculum so that students can listen, be educated and learn this history, he said. And if we do it the right way, it’s going to change how we feel and how we talk to each other.’
I am pleased to be able to say that we are seeing positive movement in the education system across Canada and in this province and we are looking forward to the work ahead. We are encouraged by the willingness of the provincial government to work with respect and cooperation with us and other Indigenous groups to develop a culturally relevant curriculum that is reflective of Indigenous history, like Residential Schools, and culture. It is vitally important for Indigenous students to see themselves reflected in curriculum.
Education can and will be a pathway for healing. We were honoured to be part of the work of the Healing and Commemoration Project and to represent the many NunatuKavut Inuit impacted by residential schools in Labrador and in Newfoundland.
I thank the Healing and Commemoration Project Advisory Committee and The Rooms for putting together this exhibit. We look forward to being an integral part of the work that is continuing with this project. For us to be more fully engaged and participatory in helping to educate and create space for telling these important truths is an important part of this process.
Today, we solemnly remember the former students who have passed on, carrying their stories to the very end. And, for those still on their healing journey, the bravery and courage they display in their daily lives is an inspiration to us all. Nakummek.”
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