“On my father’s side,” explains First Nation Master Carver Carey Newman, “my grandfather was Kwakwaka’wakw from the Kukwakam, Gixsam and Wa’welibayi clans of Fort Rupert, so Kwagiulth, on the northern end of Vancouver Island.
“And my grandmother was from the Sto:lo nation, the Cheam reserve, on the Upper Fraser Valley, so Salish.”
Like thousands of other First Nation children, Newman’s father and his siblings were forced to attend residential school.
Newman created the Witness Blanket using hundreds of objects from those schools, to honour truth, and help Canadians begin an important conversation.
“I think it might open up a different entry point to talking about residential schools, to talking about colonialism in Canada.
“And then, when you compare that to the celebration…for me, it’s always a conflict of emotion, because, for me, I’m proud to be Indigenous, but I’m also proud to be Canadian, and those two things sometimes conflict with each other. Particularly when you look closely at something like the impact of colonialism.”
Carey Newman’s wife Elaine Ting explains how the Witness Blanket has impacted her.
“It makes me proud because, you can’t forget what happened in the past, but if you hold onto it, you never move forward, and I think Carey is helping a generation of Canadians, indigenous and non-indigenous, to move forward with artwork, and that makes me more than proud.”
Ting’s family immigrated from Taiwan in 1975.
“Since I’ve met Carey” Ting explains, “I realized that the country that has given me and my family so much, has also taken away a lot from Carey and his family, and a lot of people’s families.
“And it’s been a little difficult to reconcile, and it’s been particularly hard because I didn’t know anything about it before I met Carey.”
“I like the phrase ‘Canada 150 Plus'” says Newman, “which I think is something that Vancouver’s using.
“The ‘Plus’ is an acknowledgement to all of the centuries before, that this land was something different, where the indigenous people had vibrant societies.”