Assignment Five (rework) – Returning to Coyote

This assignment, has evolved as a result of the research that I did for Assignment 3. During that research the dark, history of the Canadian Indian Residential Schools was unearthed and that history has been resting quite heavily on my heart. From the 1870s Canada embarked on a policy of ethnocide, taking control over Aboriginal land, introducing a “pass system” to confine First Nations people to their reserves, denying them the right to take part in the political, economic and social life of the country unless they forwent their cultural identity. Canada also separated the children from their parents, placing them in residential schools, in order to break their connection with their culture and identity.

“When the school is on the reserve the child lives with its parents, who are savages; he is surrounded by savages, and though he may learn to read and write his habits, and training and mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write. … Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men”.

Sir John A. Macdonald, Prime Minister of Canada, 1883
(Canadiana Online, 1883:1107–1108)

This was all part of a policy to force assimilation with the dominant culture. The running of the residential schools was given over to religious groups: Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, United and Methodist churches because Macdonald was of the opinion that ” … moral restraints of the clergy … are actuated by higher motives than any secular instructor can pretend to” (Canadiana Online, 1883:1107–1108). The last of these schools closed in 1996.

The children were collected from the reserves by the Indian agent, loaded onto cattle trucks or trains and transported over long distances to the various schools. Many of the children were as young as 4 years old. For the majority of the children, many had never seen such huge buildings before and these edifices created terrifying impressions on them. Upon arriving at the schools, they were stripped of their clothing, given threadbare, ill-fitting uniforms to wear, were deloused, and their hair was cut short, and finally they were issued with a number, which which they were known in some of the schools. The conditions in the schools were harsh. Children were forbidden to speak their own language and many had no knowledge of English at all. Boys and girls were separated, only to be seen across a dining hall. The food was sub-standard. Residential school survivor, Geraldine Schroeder describes a culinary treat at Easter being Corn Flakes and three jelly beans, burnt chocolate and sour milk (Jack, 2006). Many children endured both physical and sexual abuse.

Because the residential schools were set in place in the 1870s, many generations were affected. The legacy of this system is that children grew up not learning how to empathize, or show love and this was passed down through the generations, creating mental health issues, as well as alcoholism and drug dependency. Generations have been living with intense anger and shame due to the physical and sexual abuse inflicted on them. First Nations languages are close to extinction, cultures and traditions almost destroyed. In 2008 the federal government formally apologised to the First Nations people.

 


Setting the Scene

With the background mentioned above, I have created a slide show using a variety of media, some my own, some from historical archives, some appropriated,  rephotographed or refilmed from Truth and Reconciliation Commission videos, letting the survivors of the Kamloops Indian Residential School tell their story. The initial sound track heard is the Secwépemc Healing Walk Welcome Song, which provides a sense of purification throughout the show, while survivors relate their stories. The slideshow is also book-ended by the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper offering the official apology in 2008 to the First Nations of Canada Residential School Survivors. Creating this piece of work during the isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic really brought home the isolation and despair the children must have felt at being  separated from their families. I was asked during a recent student hangout from what critical distance was I approaching this assignment. After much consideration and watching many testimonies, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not approaching it from a Canadian perspective, nor am I approaching it from an immigrant’s perspective, but I’m approaching this from a mother’s perspective.

To contextualise my work, I looked at the work Jack LathamMarc Wilson as well as Christopher Malloy and Gideon Mendel.

I have called this project Returning to Coyote. The coyote is a very important animal in First Nations culture. “He is who we are, he is probably our base. Our conception of the world is from Coyote and his legends and what he set out for the people to do and what he set out for himself to right wrongs of the Earth … he can be a healer or a fixer of issues and problems … he created a safe place for people to live in amongst the animals in a way that we can coincide together in a respectful way” (Meet Coyote, an Aboriginal ‘Legend’, 2015). I sincerely believe the path to healing and restoration for the First Nations people is through the return to their own culture and traditions.


ASSESSMENT CRITERIA

Demonstration of technical and visual skills: Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

This has been a very challenging assignment to do, especially during this Covid-19 pandemic. I have never done this kind of multimedia project before, and I didn’t particular relish the idea of trying to learn Adobe Premiere either. I decided to explore PowerPoint’s capabilities and found that it would suffice for my purposes. A huge amount of tinkering and fine-tuning was required in working out timings, audio overlays, transitions and so on. The project evolved quite organically. The more research I did, the more my work was informed. Although I used a variety of media, as mentioned above, I do feel that the end result and the way that I have curated the pieces is my own voice and I’m really quite happy with the end result.

Quality of Outcome: Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment. Conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

I did a huge amount of research, reading and watching many heart-rending testimonies  of the Secwépemc First Nations people who attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School. I presented my WIPs to the following hangouts: Rest of the World hangout – 22/3/2020; Documentary hangout – 26/3/2020 and my comments are recorded on those blog postings. My ideas were well received and those commenting on the WIPs acknowledged that the project was moving, emotional and raised many questions among the viewers. I was extremely please to learn that.

Demonstration of Creativity: Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

This assignment has most definitely been so far outside my comfort zone. I feel I have taken quite a few risks with this assignment, using historical photographs, my archival photos, video footage, audio as well as my own photos that I managed to take before the pandemic lock-down kicked in. Working within the limitations of PowerPoint, I appropriated video footage by re-videoing (is that even a word?) archival videos and Truth and Reconciliation Commission Sharing Panels. My overriding consideration with this work was to approach it with sensitivity and I feel that I have done that. I mentioned during my self-evaluation for A3 that I was beginning to see and make connections with past work and I think this has become evident in this assignment. As a fellow student mentioned during a recent Documentary hangout, it seems that during my journey in the Documentary course, that I’ve previously taken the First Nations symbols, their voices and now brought it all together in this assignment. And I think he is right – there is a feeling of tying everything together with this assignment. Hopefully my personal voice is emerging a little more loudly now.

My initial plans can be seen on the the following posts:

Research related to this assignment:

Context: Reflection, research (evidenced in learning logs). Critical thinking (evidenced in critical review).

I found it a little difficult to verbalise my thought process for this assignment while working on it, because it involved lots of fine-tuning. Determining timing for the slides, figuring out how to overlay audio over audio and video, as well as having two consecutive audio files on one slide all came about through trial and error. Much of the experimentation involved taping and retaping audio and video footage. Tweaking one thing, replaying the slide show, tweaking something else, replaying the slide show again. This would have been a painfully slow process to record in detail. It would have been ideal to be able to fade out the drum sound track towards the end of the credits, but sadly that functionality doesn’t seem to exist in PowerPoint. If I had been able to make this work outside of the Covid-19 pandemic, I would most definitely have tried to gain access to the school’s interior and also try and locate survivors for their portraits, but lock-down restrictions are still in effect at the moment.

I have taken part in the following hangouts:

Both my two regular hangout groups have decided to meet every two weeks now during the pandemic so we can continue to encourage each other.

My weekly check in posts can be seen at: https://lyndakuitphotographydocumentary.wordpress.com/category/learning-log/personal-reflections/

 

Bibliography

2008 Federal Apology to Residential School Survivors (2008) Directed by APTN News. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQjnbK6d3oQ (Accessed  25/03/2020).

Aerial view of Kamloops Indian Residential School | Google Earth (s.d.) At: https://earth.google.com/web/@50.67871172,-120.29675034,348.75196107a,474.30704227d,35y,12.51760648h,60t,0r (Accessed  24/03/2020).

An elder’s story: The truth about Residential school (2015) Directed by Castanet News. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAL5KSWFTNI (Accessed  15/01/2020).

BC Event BCNE107a Special Event Detail RBS Report | NRCTR (2013) Directed by TRC. At: https://nctr.ca/SCRIPTS/MWIMAIN.DLL/154549233/6/3/2364583?RECORD&DATABASE=DESC_ACC_VIEW (Accessed  12/03/2020).

BC Event MDBCNE101 Canoe Gathering Detail RBS Report | NRCTR (2013) Directed by TRC. At: https://nctr.ca/SCRIPTS/MWIMAIN.DLL/154549233/4/1/2364632?RECORD&DATABASE=DESC_ACC_VIEW (Accessed  12/03/2020).

BC Event SP153 Sharing Panel Detail RBS Report | NRCTR (s.d.) Directed by TRC. At: https://nctr.ca/SCRIPTS/MWIMAIN.DLL/444228095/1/6/2363948?RECORD&DATABASE=DESC_ACC_VIEW (Accessed  26/03/2020).

BC Teachers’ Federation (2015) Project of Heart | Illuminating the hidden history of Indian Residential schools in BC. Vancouver: (s.n.).

Canadiana Online (1883) Official report of the debates of the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada : [Official reports of the debates of the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada : first session, fifth Parliament … comprising the period from the twentieth day of April to the twenty-fifth day of May, 1883. At: https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.9_07186_1_2/369?r=0&s=3 (Accessed  27/03/2020).

Coyote (2020) In: Wikipedia. At: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Coyote&oldid=947254561 (Accessed  26/03/2020).

De Leeuw, S. (2007) ‘Intimate colonialisms: the material and experienced places of British Columbia’s residential schools’ In: The Canadian Geographer 51 (3) At: https://link-galegroup-com.ucreative.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/A171295540/ITOF?sid=lms (Accessed  17/01/2020).

Indian Residential School, Kamloops, ca. 1937 (1937) Directed by Booth, A. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=AuO1KFSH6-4&feature=emb_logo (Accessed  21/03/2020).

IRSHDC : Archival Item : Photograph [10a-c000433-d0012-001] (s.d.) At: https://collections.irshdc.ubc.ca/index.php/Detail/objects/2167 (Accessed  09/03/2020).

IRSHDC : Archival Item : Photograph [10a-c000435-d0004-001] (s.d.) At: https://collections.irshdc.ubc.ca/index.php/Detail/objects/2182 (Accessed  09/03/2020).

Item B-01592 – Kamloops Museum photo; Kamloops Residential School (193AD) At: https://search-bcarchives.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/kamloops-museum-photo-kamloops-residential-school (Accessed  21/12/2019).

Jack, A. (ed.) (2006) Behind Closed Doors: Stories from the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Penticton: Theytus Books.

Kamloops 1934 | Exhibition | Where Are The Children (1934) : Deschâtelet. At: http://wherearethechildren.ca/en/exhibition/ (Accessed  09/03/2020).

Meet Coyote, an Aboriginal ‘Legend’ (2015) Directed by Indigenous Tourism BC. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=PJ0_WEBnZgs (Accessed  26/03/2020).

Surviving the Kamloops Indian Residential School and the struggle for a settlement (2018) Directed by APTN News. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJ7qm6m973U (Accessed  12/01/2020).

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015) The survivors speak: a report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (s.l.): (s.n.).

UNB Day 3 Healing Walk Welcome Song (2018) Directed by SAGACom Productions. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyORebjF8To (Accessed  19/03/2020).