Saturday, October 21, 2017

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Virginia Gail Smith and the Wiindosendiwag, Walking Together Tour

 

I have been attending First United for some years with my daughter with Autism and her service dog. You are a welcoming community and we thank you for that. I am also an OCAD U student enrolled in their sculpture/installation department toward my BFA, my dream. My daughter’s autism diagnosis lead me to take a Human Centred Research class where we were asked to create a walking tour. The history of our neighbourhood land as part of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation Territory and once named the Nawash Village generated the idea for this school project.

Using the premise Walking is Medicine, spoken by Brock Lewis who journeyed from his Indigenous community in the north to Ottawa for Idle No More in 2013, a tour was designed. When our church formed a reconciliation group we saw that this walking tour, if realized could be both educational and a form of reconciliation. This tour design included five significant land sites which would accompany five Indigenous stories. Those five stories became twenty-five stories and songs. The recordings were researched, created and recorded over a six-month period. The five sculptures were completed over a four-month period. This was achieved under an independent study credit where I was able to create the sculptures in OCADU’s welding shop and with the help of an anonymous artist friend in Owen Sound. This became a full-time job for six months from January to June until the unveiling July 1st. Preparations, granting applications and permissions took another months which began in June 2016.

 

 

Responding to The Truth and Reconciliation Recommendations, the Tour goals were to foster direct communication and understanding of the of the United Church's role in the Indian Residential School system and the impact of this system on former students and their communities and to educate walking tour participants and advocate for them to stand in solidarity with indigenous rights.

 

Walking Together is an initiative of the First United Truth and Reconciliation Circle in partnership with Trish Meekins, Nikaanaganaa Counselling and Learning Centre and Susan Staves, Great Lakes Metis Council, of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, knowledge keepers of the traditional territory in which Grey and Bruce are located and artist Virginia Gail Smith, in consultation with the Saugeen First Nation and Neyaashiinigmiing, Chippewas of Nawash.

 

We are grateful for the support of the City of Owen Sound, the Community Foundation 150 Fund, The United Church Truth and Justice Fund, The Toronto Conference, United Church of Canada Right Relations Fund, First United Church and OCADU.

 

I am grateful for the support and help I have received from our Reconciliation Committee and their commitment to Right Relations.

 

Other project information can be seen on my website at virginiagailsmith.com

Stories can be accessed directly at owensound.ca/walkingtour

 

 

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