On a multi-level display, 215 pairs of tiny moccasins deliver a powerful message about Canada’s abhorrent residential school system and the need to work together to build a more hopeful future.
Woodstock First Nation band member Terri Paul-Thiffault said she thought of the display idea shortly after hearing about the tragic discovery of unmarked graves at the former Kamloops B.C. Residential School.
Thiffault said she wanted to honour the 215 children found in those graves and the generations of indigenous children who suffered at residential schools across Canada.
She said the idea of the moccasin display became a reality thanks to the help of her fellow Woodstock First Nation community members.
Thiffault cited words she read about turning past tragedies into hope for the future as a driving force behind the project.
“It is an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come,” she said.
She sought help to create the display in remembrance of the children.
“Our goal is to have people volunteer to help make 215 pairs of miniature moccasins for this display,” Thiffault explained.
The community responded, and the project started on June 4, the first of three workshops.
“It was a group effort,” Thiffault said.
Over the summer, she spent most of her spare time, with the help of others, creating the tiny moccasins and finalizing the four-level display.
Thiffault said creating the moccasins began with a small piece of the leather cut to a template then sewn together. She said each person added beadwork in their style.
Thiffault said working together towards the single goal proved a great time.
“Everyone enjoyed the experience,” she said.
Thiffault displayed the completed artwork Thursday, Sept. 30, the inaugural Day of Truth and Reconciliation, at the Eagle’s Nest of the Woodstock First Nation.
Sitting in the Eagle’s Nest front lobby, the display rests in the front window, below an “All Children Matter” orange banner. Traditional native items, such as sweetgrass, cedar and sage, sit beside it. A vase of striking orange-hued roses shares the table.
Thiffault said they plan to temporarily move it to the community health centre until they decide on a permanent home.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun