Aboriginal youth help create “spirit panels” for Canadian Museum for Human Rights, in partnership with NAFC

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News release details

Aboriginal youth from every province and territory in Canada are contributing their human rights visions to artistic "spirit panels" being created for an Indigenous Perspectives gallery in the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR).

Mi'kmaq artist Gilbert Alex Sark conducts workshop in Charlottetown on Oct. 21.
Link to high‐res.

The National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) today signed a partnership agreement with the CMHR to host youth workshops with First Nations, Métis and Inuit Elders and artists in 13 communities from coast to coast to coast. The resulting artwork – intended to portray human rights concepts from the diverse perspectives of Canada`s Aboriginal youth – will adorn a unique circular theatre inside the Museum, which opens in Winnipeg in 2014 as Canada's newest national museum.

"The perspectives of Canada's Indigenous Peoples are an integral part of the human rights narrative within the Museum,

Model of CMHR's unique circular theatre.
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expressing a strong sense of responsibility and connection to community and the environment," CMHR chief operating officer Gail Stephens said at a news conference held today with NAFC representatives at the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre of Winnipeg, where youth engaged in a workshop with Anishinaabe artist Louis Ogemah.

Stephens noted that stories related to human rights issues of Indigenous Peoples will be found throughout the Museum, in every one of its galleries.

NAFC executive director Jeff Cyr said collaboration with the CMHR is an excellent opportunity to relay the importance of Indigenous youth participation in projects that directly relate to their lives.

"By sharing Indigenous youth realities with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, we can help foster positive relationships between Indigenous and non‐Indigenous Peoples in Canada, especially those surrounding Aboriginal human rights issues," he said.

Braedan L'Hirondelle and Quiten Cunningham at the High Prairie, AB workshop on Oct. 8.
Link to high‐res.

In each workshop, Aboriginal Elders help lead a discussion about human rights and responsibilities. Aboriginal artists engage the youths in a creative process that guides the artistic interpretation for each wooden panel. At the same time, Winnipeg‐based Aboriginal filmmaker Jordan Molaro records footage for vignettes that will become part of the gallery's digital presentations. 

Kat Fiddler, president of the NAFC's Aboriginal Youth Council, said the young people bring a fresh perspective that has spurred discussion on issues ranging from right to water, community, gender and equality.

"We have been hearing some powerful stories," said Fiddler, who is based at the Selkirk Friendship Centre in Manitoba. "Everyone chooses different ways to express themselves as we work to build a sense of community and trust that opens the door to creative expression."

Workshops have been held in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, the three Prairie provinces and Atlantic Canada. They continue next week in Ontario and Quebec, and the following week in the Yukon and British Columbia. A schedule is attached below.

The agreement between the NAFC and CMHR grew from focus groups and consultations earlier this year with youth and the Aboriginal community, including sessions in Winnipeg, and during the NAFC's national Aboriginal Youth Council forum in North Battleford, Saskatchewan.

Opening in 2014 in Winnipeg, the CMHR is the first museum solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. It is the first national museum to be established in Canada since 1967 and the first built outside the National Capital Region. 

CMHR‐NAFC Aboriginal youth "spirit panel" workshops

Sept. 26, Selkirk, MB, Louis Ogemah, Anishinaabe
Oct. 1, Behchoko, NWT, James Wedzin, Tłı̨chǫ
Oct. 3, Rankin Inlet, NU, Veronique Nirlungayuk, Inuit
Oct. 8, High Prairie, AB, Aaron Paquette, Métis and Cree
Oct. 10, Prince Albert, SK, Leah Dorian, Métis
Oct. 21, Charlottetown, PEI. Gilbert Alex Sark, Mi'kmaq
Oct. 22, Halifax, NS, Ursula Johnson, Mi'kmaq
Oct. 24, St. John's, NL, Dinah Anderson, Inuit
Nov. 5, Toronto, ON, Scott Benesiinaabandan, Anishinaabe
Nov. 7, Fredericton, NB, Alan Syliboy, Mi'kmaq
Nov. 8, Saguenay, QC, Sonia Robertson, Mashteuiatsh
Nov. 12, Whitehorse, YK, Ukejse Van Kampen, Tutchone
Nov. 15, Nanaimo, BC, TBA

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Christelle Mekoh