John E. Robbins Library Exhibit Displays Residential School Impacts

100 Years of Loss is an exhibition organized by the Legacy of Hope Foundation that is currently set up in the John E. Robbins Library Gathering Space. The display showcases the residential school system and its aftermath on the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities.

Beginning on September 29th the exhibition runs until October 20th, open to both BU staff and students and to the general public during regular library operating hours. The display features relevant photographs of key historical figures such as Louis Riel, the leader of the Northwest rebellion. Quotes from individuals like Sir John A. MacDonald are also featured that reveal the intention behind the residential school system. The display of a timeline is present that describes key events ranging from the opening of the first residential school in Quebec City in 1620 until 2011.

It goes on to take a look at the experiences and the environment First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children faced once they found themselves at the residential school. Sections explain the suppression of culture through cutting hair, refusing to allow native languages to be spoken, and the separation from their communities. The ill trained and in some cases abusive teachers, and the rampaging illness. Due to the sensitive and possibly triggering subject matter of these topics Brandon University has in place a room for reflection on the second floor of the John E. Robbins Library.

The intergenerational effect the residential schools have had on the communities of those who attended is explored, however it is noted that different communities were affected in different ways, as well as the steps taken towards healing their communities by focusing of holistic healing and the resurgence of traditions and culture with the guidance of their elders.

When asked how the overall reception to the exhibitions presence has been from the community, Lisa Park, Diversity and Human Rights Advisor says, “A lot of people are just really happy that we’re getting some education out there for folks, that we’re showing an openness to address some of the calls to action in truth and reconciliation.” She adds, “As a university we’re an educational institution so part of our mandate is really to educate people and so having something like this that educates not just our own community, we’re also bringing in the larger Brandon community.” Park was also excited that this has lead to contact from Third Age Learning Co-Op who are focusing more so on the Brandon Residential Schools, and a plan on combining the exhibits on the 16th to the 20th has been put in place. Park hopes this will demonstrate to people, “how close to home this was.”