Akwesasne artwork remembers children who didn’t come home

CORNWALL, Ontario – The Cornwall Public Library will feature Indigenous artwork created by dozens of artists.

The coin is a wheel covered with different uppers of beaded moccasins. Vamp moccasins are made for children, and the room is dedicated to the memory of the thousands of children’s graves discovered in residential schools last summer.

The artwork was presented to Cornwall City Council at its Monday October 24 meeting by Iakonikonriiosta, Karrie Benedict and Maie Thomas from Native North American Traveling College (NNATC).

“Since this project was started by the Discoveries in Kamloops, British Columbia, each vampire is supposed to represent the children who did not return from residential schools,” Thomas said. “Although there are 221 vampires on our screen, over 6,000 child remains have been found so far. But there are still a lot of residential school grounds that have not been excavated, so that number will continue to increase. Plus, the designs on each vampire represent different things. Many artists have chosen to use the color orange to represent Orange Shirt Day, others choose a lot of Kanien’kehaka symbolism. This part was really at the discretion of the artists.

Benedict, who was involved in the design and production of the project, said that as a mother herself, she couldn’t imagine her kids not coming home from school.

“I have five children between the ages of 2 and 15 and I can’t imagine them not coming home after school,” said Benedict, who explained that his own biological grandparents were survivors of the boarding schools.

The artwork will be on display at the Cornwall Public Library until the end of the day on Friday October 29.

“This work of art will help our residents emotionally understand what happened,” said Cornwall Mayor Glen Grant.