"We were so far away..."
"We were far away from home, very far away; emotionally, geographically and spiritually.”
Seeing a need to portray the unique Inuit experience of residential schools, the Legacy of Hope Foundation developed the "We were so far away…”: The Inuit Experience of Residential Schools exhibition in 2007.
Eight Survivors, two from each of the Inuit geographic regions – Nunavik, Nunavut, Nunatsiavut and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region – courageously and generously shared their stories with the LHF in May 2008. The curator, Heather Igloliorte, then developed an exhibition that presents the individual recollections of these Survivors in their own words, illustrated with their personal photographs and objects, and is contextualized by historical images gathered from archives across Canada. In order to be accessible to as many Inuit Survivors and communities as possible "We were so far away…” contains the individual Survivor’s regional Inuit language (Inuktitut syllabics, Inuvialuktun, or Labrador Inuktitut) in addition to English and French.
In 2010, exhibition books were produced that contains remarks from the exhibition partners, a history of the Inuit residential school experience, a condensed historical timeline, the complete Survivor interview transcripts (in Inuktitut, English and French), all of the archival images, as well as a map of Northern Canada.
The LHF is aware of the important role that this exhibit has played in generating dialogue within Inuit communities and among non-Aboriginal Canadians regarding the legacy of residential schools. Several of the eight Survivors who participated in the project spoke of the conversation they had with family and community members about their involvement in "We were so far away…”. Many of the Survivors also spoke about the fact that many Inuit communities are just starting to talk about residential schools, and that the exhibit would serve as an effective way to begin this important dialogue.
Comments from visitors to the exhibition note that the exhibition was the first time that many of them understood that there were differences and nuances between the First Nation, Métis and Inuit experience of residential school. Many also commented that the focus on individual Survivors personalized and brought home the message of the legacy of residential schools in ways that other educational resources could not.
"We were so far away…” will continue to encourage discussion and the sharing of viewpoints on issues related to residential schools and play an important role in promoting understanding and reconciliation.
About the Curator
Click here to download the Inuit and the Residential School System booklet. Print copies of his publication are no longer available.
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