Developed in 2001, the goals of Where are the Children? Healing the Legacy of the Residential Schools are to: acknowledge the experiences of, and the impacts and consequences of Canada’s Residential School System on Aboriginal peoples; to create a public and historical record of this period in Canadian history that could be easily accessed by Canadians; and to promote public awareness, understanding and education of the history and legacy of residential schools. Through documentation, acknowledgment and education, the goal of the exhibition is also to assist in promoting understanding and reconciliation in Canada about residential schools.
The exhibition consists of 118 framed archival photographs, text panels, maps, original classroom textbooks and historical government papers selected from nine public and church archives, and depicts the history and legacy of Canada’s Residential School System. Where are the Children? spans over 125 years and contains photographs and documents from the 1880s to present day.
The exhibition depicts the life of Aboriginal peoples before, during and after residential schools. Photographs, text panels and artifacts move visitors through the experience of residential school, from leaving home and arriving at residential school, to school activities and being part of a classroom. A section on the children who never returned home as well as on contemporary role models provides visitors with the range of experiences of attending residential school.
Visitors come to understand the history of residential schools and the lasting impact that residential schools have had on generations of Aboriginal peoples, and on First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures, languages and communities. The exhibition also helps to inform visitors of the impact that residential schools have had on shaping relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians, and on shaping the history of this country. Where are the Children? allows Canadians to come to grips with this part of their history and to challenge their assumptions and understandings about residential schools.
The LHF has witnessed first-hand how the education brought about by the exhibition has assisted in the process of reconciliation. For the first time in their history, communities are engaging in dialogue about how its residents have been affected by residential school. This dialogue touches upon such issues as how to reconcile with the past, how to work to address some of the impacts of residential school and how to build and improve relationships within the community. These discussions, which are taking place between generations of Aboriginal peoples, as well as between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples, have been facilitated by Where are the Children? Healing the Legacy of the Residential Schools.
The Where Are the Children? exhibition does not attempt to tell the whole story about residential schools; rather, it introduces people to a part of Canadian history by encouraging children to ask, and parents to answer, important questions about their family histories which will contribute to healing for Aboriginal communities.
Hear commentary from curator Jeff Thomas and view content such as video, images, and text.