Two artists from the Attawapiskat First Nation are taking a crash course in stained glass in Ottawa as part of a special project they hope will help their community heal.
Jackie Hookimaw-Witt and her husband Norbert Witt are working with Northern Art Glass in Ottawa on a week-long course as part of a project to replace six large stained glass windows for the Catholic church in Attawapiskat.
The Northern Ontario community came to national attention last fall after a housing crisis was declared and residents were found to be living in plywood shacks without running water.
But Hookimaw-Witt's project is connected to older wounds, including the church's history of removing children from the community to residential schools.
She applied and received a $50,000 grant from the federal Truth and Reconciliation Fund to create the stained glass windows.
"It's something positive, healing and creative and we want to show...that spirituality is important and people are still strong Catholics," said Hookimaw-Witt.
Hookimaw-Witt said her 80-year-old parents and four of her siblings spent their childhood in residential schools. She said her parents paddled 150 kilometres to see their children in a Fort Albany school.
Each window will have an animal depicting the six Cree seasons and other images, including families smoking fish, and contact with early missionaries.
Hookimaw-Witt and her husband hope to finish the first window and then teach artists in the community to create the other five windows.
Northern Art Glass owner Brian Eagle said the two are fast learners.
"From raw beginners to professionals in just one week. It's ambitious but they are working out real well," said Eagle.