Shelley Niro’s Battle of my Ancestors has arrived at Woodland Cultural Centre!
We are happy to announce the arrival of Shelley Niro’s work Battlefields of my Ancestorsthat will be installed along the driveway leading up to the Mohawk Institute Residential School until Thanksgiving weekend in October 2017. The arrival of 6 images currently on display at Ryerson University (April 28 – August 13) will complete the exhibition in late August.
Woodland Cultural Centre would like to thank Tom Hill, Lead Maintenance for installing this beautiful work. Thank you to the Museum and Arts Departments who have worked with Bonnie Rubenstein and Benjamin Freedman from Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival for making this possible. Thank you to Ontario Arts Council and Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. For more than 30 years, multidisciplinary artist Shelley Niro (Mohawk, Turtle Clan) has chronicled the land of the Mohawks – part of the confederacy of Six Nations called the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois. She has repeatedly followed her ancestors; migration route from Upstate New York, where she was born, to the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory near Brantford, Ontario, where she was raised, to photograph the regions that hold significance for her people. Niro has documented the sites of the Cayuga villages destroyed during the American Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783), and the environs of the Grand River that were subsequently deeded to the Six Nations. Her images point to unresolved land claims made by descendants of the Cayuga people, some of whom were sovereign allies to the British on Canada’s battlefields.
Niro’s photographs are presented here alongside the driveway to the Mohawk Institute Residential School – a place where many cultural traditions were taken from the First Nations people. The images speak to a highly contentious past and offer a different perspective on “official” narratives. While Niro’s installation commemorates lives and land lost in historic beliefs, it is also a call to action against ongoing injustice. The photographs taken in the United States are positioned in opposition to those taken in Canada.
On September 30, 1973, just 50 years ago, six-year-old Phyllis Webstad’s new orange shirt was taken away from her on her first day of the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in British Columbia. That act has come to symbolize how Indigenous culture has been stolen from generations of Indigenous Peoples, Communities and Nations across Canada, and the lasting damage this has caused. As Mohawk Institute Survivor Tony Bomberry reminds us, “residential school is the only school where you didn’t graduate – you survived.” Sadly, we know not all children who were brought to the Institute did survive. The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation provides the chance to reflect on this history and how the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples can be healed. It is not easy, and it will take time, but it is possible, provided there is a willingness to understand the hurt of the past and see the possibility of a new relationship. Truth requires the recognition of a dark history and its on-going impacts. Reconciliation (or as Metis Scholar David Garneau has pointed out the more appropriate term “conciliation”), requires an awareness and appreciation of “the other.” The word “Canada” comes from the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) word kaná:ta meaning a village. Based in a Rotinonhsyón:ni (Hodinohsho:ni) worldview, it means that everyone has a role and responsibility, that everyone is cared for, that no one goes without, and that we keep each other safe and maintain peace in our community. While the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada has often been at odds with the spirit of the word kaná:ta, at Woodland Cultural Centre we are grateful to all who are helping build a kinder, more inclusive, and just future for this territory. My hope is that we will all find truth and conciliation in kaná:ta. Heather GeorgeExecutive DirectorWoodland Cultural Centre#TruthandConciliation ... See MoreSee Less