Presented by the NYU Center for Media, Culture, and History. Cosponsored by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU and Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture.
A screening of Our Voices, Our Stories (40 min., 2016) will be followed by a discussion with Director Barb Cranmer (T’lakwagilogwa, ‘Namgis First Nation). An exposition of Canada’s brutal residential school history, this film won the award for Best Documentary Short at the 40th Annual American Indian Film Festival.
An estimated 9,200 children passed through the doors of St. Michael’s Indian Residential School in Alert Bay, British Columbia between 1929 and 1975. Numbers replaced their names, their aboriginal languages were forbidden, family ties broken and histories denied. Scores of children died at the school, many were abused and many never returned to their families; following generations continue to be fractured by the horrors of the colonial government and church mandated residential school systems.
Our Voices, Our Stories features the powerful accounts of residential school survivors including Evelyn Voyageur, Margaret Wilson, Edward Dawson, Hank Nelson, Bobby Joseph, Mary Speck, Stan Humchitt, Stanley Hunt, and Janice Grant, and family members Roberta Wildman, Carla Voyageur, Kodi Nelson, and Jasmine Hanuse. Director Cranmer (T’lakwagilogwa) is a member of the ‘Namgis First Nation and lived in Alert Bay.
During a special ceremony for the residential school survivors in the ‘Namgis ‘bighouse’, the film records the poignant words of the late Chief Frank Nelson: “Let the healing begin…Now we can look proudly at our children and know they will never be taken away from us again.”
In 2015, an important step was taken towards healing for coastal First Nation communities when the looming old Anglican school building was finally demolished. St. Michael’s brick walls tumbled down as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada prepared its comprehensive call to action ‘to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.
Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau has pledged to act on the TRC recommendations, in particular to immediately launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and end chronic underfunding of First Nations education.