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Tonight we are on our fifth storm that was not, all Winter we had alerts for disruptive snow storms etc. One after the other did not materialize, because of the position of the Island Province winds have a great impact on the trajectory of storms, what is coming at you one moment suddenly moves into another direction and misses us completely. I am not  complaining but here the impact is serious, often because many small communities are isolated and some roads are not paved, schools will close for the day, in some cases government services will also be shut early. If the storm does not come or is 12 hours late and passes over us in the dead of night, it causes a lot of disruption in daily lives. Today the storm did not materialize and is 6 hours late, giving us light snow which melts on contact.

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I was at the Art Gallery of the Confederation Centre this week and spoke with the Director about the Summer Exhibit and my availability as guide. I am very much looking forward to the new Summer show. It will be on the Canada 150, though the celebration of 2017 are over, this travelling exhibit criss-crossed Canada and is now coming here in a few weeks. The main artist is well known, Kent Monkman, a Cree native whose reputation is well established. His large canvasses will be accompanied and displayed with art pieces from the Glenbow Museum as reference to his own interpretation to the history of the last 150 years in Canada.

One piece is entitled the Scream and refers to the policy of the National Government to kidnap native children from their parents in order to civilize them in the notorious Residential Schools.

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The Scream, Kent Monkman.

I know that this exhibit will be very controversial and many may not like it at all. A difficult topic on the abuse of the authorities against natives in Canada. As a guide I am not tasked with explaining national history nor taking sides or defending the actions of the national government at the time but to present the point of view of the artist, letting the public decide for themselves about the art work on show.

In the 19th century, the Canadian government believed it was responsible for educating and caring for aboriginal people in Canada. It thought their best chance for success was to learn English and adopt Christianity and Canadian customs. Ideally, they would pass their adopted lifestyle on to their children, and native traditions would diminish, or be completely abolished in a few generations.

The Canadian government developed a policy called “aggressive assimilation” to be taught at church-run, government-funded industrial schools, later called residential schools. The government felt children were easier to mold than adults, and the concept of a boarding school was the best way to prepare them for life in mainstream society.

Residential schools were federally run, under the Department of Indian Affairs. Attendance was mandatory for children in the many communities that didn’t have day schools. Agents were employed by the government to ensure all native children attended school.

The last school closed in 1996, there were 80 such schools in Canada operated by Churches both Protestant and Catholic. Some 150,000 children passed through the system in 110 years with devastating effects.

 

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