In 2013 Maynard Johnny Jr. was the Visiting Artist in Anthropology 305: Anthropology of the Arts. His focus during his residence was the legacy of Canada’s residential schools. He engaged students through dialogue about the continued impact of the colonial agenda of the schools. Together Johnny Jr. and students discussed the implications of the word ‘reconciliation’ and the difficult road ahead after the official apology by Canada in 1998 for the schools. This piece reflects this dialogue. Maynard Johnny Jr. writes:
“Surviving Truth” speaks to the history of residential schools and their continued legacy and impact on generations of Indigenous peoples today. The work addresses the truths of Survivors – the children who went to the schools, their parents and families who were left behind, and the children of these people. There is much work ahead of all Canadians to engage in HEALING, and UNDERSTANDING about the ways the legacy of the schools impacts individuals and communities today. “Surviving Truths” speaks to the fact that Indigenous peoples ARE STILL HERE, and we as PEOPLE are taking steps forward to succeed in this “Western society”. There must be UNDERSTANDING from all perspectives, because we are here together now.
The “Surviving Truth” Panel is made up of red cedar, glass and acrylic paint. The design on the right is of a First Nations Woman with a long tongue protruding from her mouth. She is speaking her language, fluently. She shares a mouth with an upside down Frog. Salish peoples understand the Frog to be a “communicator”. Residential schools played a HUGE roll in taking our language away from us, and today we are fighting to keep them alive. The design to the left is of a Woman (right side up) and a Man (upside down). They share a mouth that holds a maple leaf and a cross. These symbols represent the forcible removal of children to residential schools by the Canadian government and churches. The middle design in glass depicts a House with three human figures huddled in the middle to represent Canadians (all races), the government, and the churches. They are gathering in the House to reach an UNDERSTANDING and find ways to HEAL the impact of the residential schools. The Thunderbirds in the top part of the glass design are there to protect the process of HEALING and UNDERSTANDING. The Salmon in the bottom part of the glass design are a symbol of REJUVENATION that our people have accomplished and need to continue but with the togetherness of all PEOPLE.
Learn more and watch a video interview with Maynard Johnny Jr. here.
Maynard Johnny Jr. (born 1973) has inherited a unique blend of traditions as he is of both Kwakwaka’wakw and Coast Salish decent. He is self-taught, and has been working on his art since his teens. While versatile in other medias, including woodcarving and engraving, Johnny has focused on printmaking for the past decade. He tries maintain a contemporary vision of traditional legends. Johnny currently lives in Chemainus, British Columbia.