Witness Blanket Goes Digital To Share Truths And Memories Of Residential School Survivors 

Today, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), Indigenous artist Carey Newman (Hayalthkin’geme), and TELUS celebrated the launch of a new online platform which invites all Canadians to bear witness to the experiences of residential school Survivors. 

Witnessblanket.ca shares stories from the Witness Blanket, a powerful work of art made from over 800 items reclaimed from residential schools, churches, government buildings and other important cultural sites across Canada. The artwork was created by master carver and Indigenous artist, Carey Newman, as a national monument to recognize the atrocities of the residential school era, honour the children, Survivors, and symbolize ongoing reconciliation. 

Users can explore 10 original stories that weave together video testimony from Survivors with information about a piece of the artwork. These stories share the significance of items that carry a deep personal and cultural connection to the residential school era and its legacy such as braided hair, a mush hole bowl, Inuvik stone, and letters. Users can also explore the full artwork, including individual pieces, where they were located and who contributed them. Digitizing the Witness Blanket has made it accessible to audiences around the world. Through witnessblanket.ca, thousands more each year will recognize the atrocities of the era, remember the children who didn’t return home, and honour Survivors. 

The digital Witness Blanket project was created through a partnership between Newman, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Animikii Indigenous Technology, Media One Inc., and TELUS. It was made possible by a $1 million dollar commitment from TELUS and the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation, and an additional $100,000 from the Entwistle Family Foundation. Its development was guided by a Survivors Circle brought together through the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR). The launch of witnessblanket.ca represents the first phase of this partnership. Moving forward, it will leverage TELUS’ technological expertise to create augmented reality, virtual reality led by Camosun Innovates, and projection mapping experiences that will further expand the reach of the Witness Blanket.

A core feature of the platform is a new resource guide for teachers, created in consultation with an advisory group of teachers across Canada. The guide includes foundational teaching strategies, guidance on how to welcome Elders, Survivors and Indigenous community members into the classroom, and detailed lesson plans for teaching about residential schools to students of all ages.

In addition to digitizing the Witness Blanket, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has launched an initiative by the Vancouver Public Library to create stations in two branches – including a children’s branch at the Central Library – where visitors can explore the Witness Blanket digitally.

Central to TELUS’ Reconciliation Commitment, TELUS is leveraging their world-leading technology to support the diverse needs of Indigenous Peoples, build relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses, help to grow the economy and enable prosperity for Indigenous Peoples. In 2021, TELUS committed $8 million to stand in solidarity with Survivors and their families by supporting Indigenous-led entrepreneurs, projects and initiatives. This commitment includes a $1 million gift to digitize, promote and distribute the Witness Blanket as well as investments from the TELUS Pollinator Fund in Indigenous-led businesses, and grants from the TELUS Community Boards and TELUS Friendly Future Foundation.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: