Honouring: Project Of Heart / Speaking To Memory


  • Exhibition September 17 - December 7 2018

A collaboration between SD 71 Indigenous Education Services and Comox Valley Art Gallery

The path to reconciliation can be a rough trail for some when we first become aware of the history of residential Schools in Canada. These exhibits touch our hearts and teach our minds to educate future generations in knowing this history and will help them to ensure this history is never repeated. – Anonymous

This exhibition is a responsive legacy project that honours the intent of two projects; Speaking to Memory: Images and Voices from St. Michael’s Indian Residential School and Project of Heart: Illuminating the Hidden History of Indian Residential Schools in BC. These arts-based presentations offered educators, students, and families of School District 71 the opportunity to examine the history and legacy of Indian Residential Schools in British Columbia. Emerging artist Jesse Everson created graphics that have been silkscreened onto cushions for seating during sharing circles and facilitated engagement with the project.

The Kwikw, or Eagle is seen as an animal that is wise and can guide others. The Eagle is placed on the canoe to help make a path, a path for reconciliation. Reconciliation is something that is helping to allow Indigenous and Non-Indigenous peoples across Canada to better understand the events that happened from 1884 to 1951. In that span of time, The Government of Canada had set in place ‘The Potlatch Ban’. The Potlatch Pan was made to assimilate Indigenous culture across Canada. This includes Language, songs and dances. Also, with The Potlatch Ban, the Indian Residential School system was put into action. Indian Residential Schools operated from about 1870 to 1996. The schools were designed to ‘take the Indian out’ of young indigenous children. They were run by the church, in order to Christianize the children. If the adults were to practice their culture, they would be thrown into jail. Their masks and regalia were taken away. The Canoe design represents The journey that everyone Canadian should take to better understand Canada’s dark past. – Jesse Everson

Speaking to Memory: Images and Voices from St. Michael’s Indian Residential School was first presented at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in 2014, through the collaborative work of MOA curator Bill McLennan and the U’mista Cultural Centre director Sarah Holland and curator Juanita Johnston and the ‘Namgis First Nation at Alert Bay. The work, comprised of photographs taken by a student using a small camera, provides a personal glimpse of the now demolished St. Michael’s Residential School.

Project of Heart was originally created by educator Sylvia Smith and coordinated by Charlene Bearhead in Ottawa, Ontario in 2011, to instigate truth and reconciliation through arts-based education. In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work, the British Columbia Teacher’s Federation created Project of Heart: Illuminating the Hidden History of Indian Residential Schools in BC out of the originating project. In 2012, Aboriginal artists Derrick George and Una Ann Moyer working with students from participating schools created the Project of Heart commemorative canoe as a way to foster healing.


The Comox Valley Art Gallery in partnership with SD 71 Indigenous Education Services gratefully acknowledge the support of Canada Council for the Arts Engage and Sustain Program + New Chapter Program, BC Arts Council, Government of Canada, Province of BC, City of Courtenay, Town of Comox, Comox Valley Regional District, BC Gaming, Museum of Anthropology UBC (Bill McLennan), Beverly Brown + the Brown Family, U’mista Cultural Centre (Sarah Holland + Juanita Johnston), ‘Namgis First Nation at Alert Bay, Project of Heart Canada (Sylvia Smith + Charlene Bearhead), British Columbia Teacher’s Federation (Derrick George + Una Ann Moyer), Jesse Everson, Coast Imaging Arts (Ernst Vegt) and our local businesses and community partners.
We especially thank all of our volunteers, donors, and members.

The Comox Valley Art Gallery and SD 71 Indigenous Education Services are located on unceded traditional territory of the K’ómoks First Nation.