April 24th, 2024

Esplanade to host sharing circle to help navigate effects of 60s Scoop

By ANNA SMITH Local Journalism Initiative on March 30, 2024.

asmith@medicinehatnews.com

Indigenous artist-storyteller Brenda Mercer hopes to form better connections with Canadian history with a sharing circle on Thursday surrounding the effects of the 60s Scoop.

Mercer says she finds she naturally gravitates toward Indigenous artwork when it comes through the Esplanade, and this was the case again with the works of George Littlechild and his collection, titled “Here I Am – Can You See Me?”

“Like Littlechild, I’m a 60s Scooper, and I think right now residential schools are at the forefront. A lot of people know about them,” said Mercer. The 60s Scoop, she explained, refers to a period in which there was mass removal of Indigenous children from their families, largely being placed in non-Indigenous homes or state care.

She added that many people conflate the two events, but in reality, the Scoop was caused by the lingering effects of residential schools, and were a distinct part of Canadian history.

Mercer says she was fortunate to have been with a family that was kind and took care of her, but many were not given that same good fortune.

Deeply moved by the stark black and red drawings of Littlechild, depicting unnamed children who perished while attending residential school, Mercer has organized the upcoming event to create a safe space to both share experiences and ask questions.

“What we’ll do is we have our chairs in a circle to speak,” said Mercer. “We’re going to come into the room where the artwork is, and we’re going to have a smudge before and then we’ll do a sharing circle. Basically, asking people what they know, or even if they know of the 60s Scoop.”

Participants will also be creating small medicine pouches, added Mercer. It is her hope that people will feel safe in the space to search for knowledge, as when they do not feel safe to ask, assumptions can often get made, which can create a divide.

“Sometimes it’s hard because I try to create a safe space for people to ask those questions. We’ll have a sharing circle again, at the end before we let everybody go, just to make sure they’re all OK,” said Mercer. “I think it’s important for me to help accentuate the history of Canadians. It’s not an Indigenous history. It’s everyone’s history.

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