Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Gift to Honor Survivors. All Surviviors

Returning Home
30" x 40"
Mixed Media on Canvas

I'm allowing free full sized download of this image. For those who need it you are welcome to it. Click here.

If you like any of my other work to purchase, it would be appreciated but is absolutely not necessary. This is my gift and now it's yours. Here's why:

This was painted for the survivors of the Canadian Residential School experience. For those who don't know, it was government policy to "kill the Indian" in children by taking them forcibly from their homes and transporting them to far away schools. These Schools were run primarily by religious organizations and many of the children were physically and sexually abused. They were forbidden to speak their own language and at the end of their experience were broken people with many unresolved emotional scars. My grandmother was one of them. This policy ended in the 1990's. Not the 1890's. The 1990's.

Every First Nations (Native) family has someone who was subjected to this purposeful abuse and the long ranging results are alcoholism, drug abuse, perpetuation of the abuse they suffered on the next generation, mental illness and so on.

Sometimes white society in Canada gets frustrated at the repetition of these facts. I guess it's a sort of "blame the victim" mentality and they wish Aboriginal people would just get over it. Of course, it is my most sincere wish that one day First Nations people heal and do get over the abuse.

But something that took hundreds of years to mess up probably won't be fixed overnight. It will take generations, and that's just the simple, unvarnished truth. White society should be outraged at their government. Locking someone in a room and allowing them to be molested by a man or woman of god for ten years might take more than an apology to make all right.

Anyway, it's kind of depressing information, I agree, so I'll leave you with the write up I created for this work.


The idea for this painting was to communicate safety, security, a return to tradition and traditional teachings. In essence, it was to be about healing. I considered the challenge it represented and in an instant this image appeared to me. A tipi lit from within, offering sanctuary against winter’s chill. The warmth is so overpowering that it spills out through the skin, much like the glow of a person who has found a truth and lives by it, their own personal light shining out into the world offering hope to everyone. And better yet, there is a community here. No one is alone. In every home is a family, laughing, playing, dancing or praying. This is a good place to be.

Above the still and silent night hangs a full moon, lighting the way for travelers who are still out in the hills, showing them the way back to hearth and comfort. They carry burdens but will be able to put them down when their lonely journey ends. Watching over it all are the Aurora Borealis, our Northern Lights. Swaying, shining, the light of those who have gone before - our grandmothers and grandfathers - are holding hands, keeping the beat of the Round Dance. We watch this beautiful dance and are reminded of the old ways, the old teachings. We are reminded of our connection to heaven and earth, past and future. We are reminded to live here and now, in each other’s hearts.

Though the journey seems far, we are never alone. The spirits of the land surround us, the spirits of the sky watch over us, and the Great Spirit, our Creator, leads us to our greatest happiness. It’s hard to believe it when we are alone in the wilderness, but come home, be safe, be warm. Come home and rest. Come home at last, and heal.


With thanks to Honor Walk: Residential School Healing



Anonymous said...

Your work is beautiful and the important story so elegantly written. I am of Ukranian origin and I know that the abuse of past generations carries in the soul for a long time. Canadians need to hear the story, see the story, to provide a caring voice to the process Native Canadians will go through for some time. I have worked with First Nations people and see the strides forward that are being made. We all need to help the World's people who are going through inhumane abuse as we speak. Perhaps Native Canadians will lead to help others.

Caitlin Crawshaw said...

A beautiful tribute.

Aaron Paquette said...

Thank you both for your comments. This is a very important issue. In fact it might be THE most important issue facing First Nations people today.

Diane Charles said...

Dear Aaron,
Thank-you so much for your gift. I cannot find words any better than those of the anonymous person of Ukrainian heritage who posted a comment. Thank-you to them for those words too. I want you to know that you are inspiring me to use your art gift and write up to take the first step in my own personal campaign help bring more enlightenment to my community.
Thank-you so much for that too.
Yours truly,
Diane Charles
New Sarepta,