Dr. Blair Stonechild examines the 'Memorial Blanket' put together by artist and master carver Carey Newman.


Dr. Blair Stonechild examines the 'Memorial Blanket' put together by artist and master carver Carey Newman.

January 26, 2015

REGINA – "The most poignant artifact for me are the braids," said Dr. Shauneen Pete, as she explained the meaning of the "Memorial Blanket" artwork set up along a wall in the University of Regina's Research and Innovation Centre Atrium.

The Memorial Blanket was put together by West Coast artist and master carver Carey Newman. Residential school artifacts were collected from across Canada and placed in panels of the nine-metre-wide work.

The artwork includes everything from an old door, worn-out skates, a shoe, door handles, a clock, pieces of wood, glass and photos. Old books and encyclopedias occupy slots along the bottom of the work.

A slide show of photos and letters are displayed on an old table behind the blanket.

Pete, a professor at the University of Regina, said the braids held the most meaning for her because as soon as children arrived at a residential school, their hair was cut.


"Hair was cut, their clothes removed, they were showered and other clothes given," she said.

Her father, Jacob Pete, seated in a wheelchair partially hidden in a corner, watched as his daughter gave explanations to media who attended the official Jan. 9 opening. He attended St. Anthony's Residential School in Onion Lake and St. Paul's in Lebret, Sask.

Jacob Pete says the wall is a good reminder for Canadians of how "the Catholic Church, the state and the missionaries tried to destroy our culture." Students had to do what he called slave labour in and around the schools.

Dr. Blair Stonechild, a professor at First Nations University of Canada, attended St. Paul's Residential School in Lebret for nine years. The Memorial Blanket brought back memories, good and bad, that he hadn't thought about for a long time.


"I remember the dormitories; long rooms with lines of beds; a sterile, authoritarian and not a very affectionate environment."

The blanket also brings together pieces of "the shattered lives of the students who went there."

Stonechild said one role of the First Nations University of Canada is to give students a more holistic education, "an understanding of who they are and what the culture is about and we're taking that step of reconciliation that goes beyond the stories of residential schools."

The Memorial Blanket is part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Memorial Project.