There is Truth Here: Creativity and Resilience in Children’s Art from Indian Residential and Day Schools.

The works of art and drama in this exhibition are rare and precious records of Indigenous childhoods that children and youth aged 6-18 years while attending Indian residential and day schools in British Columbia and Manitoba between the late 1930s and early 1970s. The work depicts their knowledge about identities, histories, and cultures.

Art was not part of required residential and day school curricula and therefore collections of artworks are rare, and exist mostly because a few teachers saved them. Artistic activity in the schools, particularly in the years leading up to WWII and through the 1970s was often promoted as technical training for commercial design and economic development. In very rare circumstances, art was produced as expressions of individual creativity and freedom of thought. Both kinds of art are represented in this exhibition.

Image Credit: Unattributed artist (Inkameep Day School), c. 1940. Courtesy of Osoyoos Museum.  
Header Image Credit: Untitled, Phyllis Tate (1944-1975), Ditidaht First Nation, n.d., Tempera on paper, On loan from private collection of Shelley Chester

Sources of information about personal experiences at residential and day schools are usually from the viewpoint of adults. They are either testimonies given by Survivors, former students, and their children as Intergenerational Survivors, or institutional histories interpreted through written government and church documents. The artworks form another official record generated by children during their time at the school. Their work serves as a record of their creativity and resilience through what was all too often a daily struggle to survive.

The artworks in this gallery are the material traces of children’s lives and they must be honoured first and foremost as the artworks of daughters, sons, cousins, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, aunties, uncles, and parents. Each piece bears the mark of an individual child’s thinking and actions. They did not create their art as a record of history for Canada, but that is what it has become. Upon humble reflection, when one stands in the gallery and bears witness to the lives of children their art, one comes to a respectful awareness that there is truth here.


Andrea Naomi Walsh, PhD.

Guest Curator