Painted crosswalks in Saskatoon honour children who died in residential schools

·2 min read
One of the crosswalks that Saskatoon non-profit Chokecherry Studios painted in honour of children who died at residential schools. (Don Somers/CBC - image credit)
One of the crosswalks that Saskatoon non-profit Chokecherry Studios painted in honour of children who died at residential schools. (Don Somers/CBC - image credit)

Crosswalks near Broadway Avenue in Saskatoon have been painted to commemorate Indigenous children who died at residential schools.

Saskatoon non-profit Chokecherry Studios painted the crosswalks on Main Street and Ninth Street adjacent to Broadway.

The design is a feather motif on an orange ribbon with Cree syllabics written on it. The words translate to "memory" or "remembrance."

"A lot of people need the healing, and I think this is a good way to recognize that," Kiyari McNab, co-founder of Chokecherry Studios in Saskatoon, said.

Don Somers/CBC
Don Somers/CBC

"I think we all feel that it's a really important project. As an organization, Chokecherry strives to work with the community and take our direction from the community," Andrea Cessna, co-founder of Chokecherry studio, said.

The project idea came from Rob Denham, a Sixties Scoop survivor. He said it came to him after the preliminary announcement that 215 unmarked graves had been found near the Kamloops Residential School.

"I had been walking through a park in a place where I always sort of felt alone and forgotten and I came across some artwork that some children had done on the sidewalk ... it would say '215, don't hurt them,'" he said.

"That really touched me right there. That gave me a moment where it gave me some hope because I knew that there was an adult in the room educating those children and those children were coming down and expressing themselves."

It lit a fire.

"I had to reach out and I had to make some noise," he said. "I knew the time was now, you know, anybody that's willing and able, this is the time now."

Denham said he wanted to keep the momentum of remembrance and change-making going after that initial discovery. Working with Chokecherry Studios on the paintings was a great experience, he said.

"All I did was bring them a spark, and they turned it into a flame," he said.

"The big one is that it heals people like myself and the ones that feel they've been forgotten and left behind, and [this] gives them hope now. It's their time now. They're not going to be forgotten anymore."

Don Somers/CBC
Don Somers/CBC
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