4 'lost stories' from Canadian history being told through public art
Terry Horne works on his Coast Salish style post. (Diana Bonner Cornell / Bear Image Productions)
Published Monday, June 5, 2017 12:12PM EDT
Do you remember learning in history class about the indigenous boys snatched from their families during the Fraser River Gold Rush, never to be seen again?
How about the fact it was illegal in 1920s Saskatchewan for Chinese men to hire white women?
Or that Acadians suffering from leprosy were cast away to an island off New Brunswick?
Chances are, the answers are no.
A group of academics and artists is working to change that.
The Lost Stories Project has solicited has poorly-known tales from Canadian history and commissioned artists to tell them to a wider audience in public spaces, while filmmakers document the process.
The project is funded by a $235,000 federal Canada 150 grant and directed by Ronald Rudin, co-director of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Montreal’s Concordia University.
Rudin says he hopes that the stories will bring a bit of “context” to an anniversary that might otherwise be “overly celebratory.” It’s no surprise, he says, that the four stories chosen ended up being stories about marginalized communities.
Here are the four lost stories that artists are working to interpret in public spaces.
Americans who headed north to British Columbia during the Fraser River gold rush took boys from Stó:lō Nation with them and they were never seen again.
On behalf of the nation, Prof. Keith Thor Carlson of the University of Saskatchewan has been trying to find out what happened to the boys.
Terry Horne, a Coast Salish artist, is carving a traditional house post out of red cedar that will feature two figures reaching towards each other that will be erected on the Telte-Yet campgrounds near Hope, B.C. The post will be unveiled on Aug. 19. Sandra Bonner-Pederson is filming the project.
A 1919 Saskatchewan law barred Chinese business owners from employing white women without a special licence. Restaurant owner Yee Clun decided to fight the discrimination in court and, in 1924, he won.
But legislators soon enacted a similar law that stayed on the books until 1969. Still, it was a milestone in the fight against racism, according to the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan.
Chinese-born artist Xiao Han is working on an outdoor installation that will be revealed in Regina’s art park on Aug. 7. Kelly-Anne Riess is working to document the project on film.
Leprosy was a growing problem for New Brunswick’s impoverished French-Canadian minority in the 19th century. In 1844, officials sent 30 infected Acadians to an isolated island.
But the quarantined Acadians fought back and were eventually moved closer to their families.
Photographer Marika Drolet-Ferguson is planning a series of photographs that will be displayed on the grounds of St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Church, which overlooks Sheldrake Island from the mainland.
The art will be unveiled on July 19. Filmmaker Julien Cadieux is documenting the process.
Since the 1950s, the Southway Inn near Ottawa’s airport has often been the first place many Inuit find themselves after making the 2,000-kilometre journey south to the big city.
It therefore became a meeting place and a home-away-from home for many Inuit.
Inuk sculptor Couzyn van Heuvelen is crafting a traditional Arctic dog sled, known in Inuktitut as a qamutiik, which will hold luggage. The work will be unveiled at the Southway in September. Mosha Folger is documenting the work.