Cree-Metis artist Dawn Marie Marchand hopes her work can give some insight into the inter-generational suffering caused by Indian Residential Schools.

Her unique art project uses over 500 paper bricks to represent the cheap materials the schools were built with. 

The exhibit on display at Edmonton’s city hall during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission national event, March 27 to 30.  

“I would call it a first step towards healing,”Marchand says of the A Place to Hang your Stories project.

“Instead of it being something that’s being anxiety driven, you could start to deal with it, moving forward you can start to take empowerment over it.”

Marchand was given the idea last fall when an Indian residential school survivor suggested an art project for survivors and their family members to be unveiled at the final TRC event.

It was inspired by the Walking With Our Sisters project, which brings together over 1700 pairs of moccasin tops, made by people from all over North America to memorialize the unfinished lives of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

For months, Marchand used social media, reaching out to survivors and those affected, asking them to create art with their stories on 13" x 9”  paper bricks using various mediums, such as paint, crayons, beads or charcoal.   

Dawn Marie Marchand

Artist Dawn Marie Marchard spent months bringing together art on bricks from residential school survivors and their impacted families. The goal is to facilitate healing from trauma related to the schools. (CBC)

Communities stepped up with their own workshops: finished bricks were mailed to Marchand and added to the art installation.  Before setting up in Edmonton, Marchand made sure to smudge each piece.

At the exhibit, people can walk around the 10-by-10 foot tent exterior to view the bricks. Stepping inside, there is a tiny, wooden school desk that shows how young the children were when they first entered residential school. Marchand has also left room for visitors to leave their masterpieces.   

“I have a lot of hope that this will be something that is needed,” said Marchand.

“There will be people who will look at this and say ‘I didn't know this, but now I know this, so I'm going to move forward.’”

Gareth Hampshire