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VSB Student Art Gallery offers reflection on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

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An art installation recently set up at the Vancouver School District Education Centre includes paintings, poetry and rotating images on a screen next to a hanging red dress, that encourages reflection on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. It is the result of a two-year process that involved teachers and staff from the District, Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association and Vancouver Secondary Teachers’ Association. Student work is the focus and is highlighted throughout the gallery. This includes work by students at Lord Byng Secondary, Eric Hamber Secondary and Xpey’ Elementary.

“This space encourages all of us to reflect on what has happened and is continuing to happen to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous women and girls. It also reminds us that all people from all cultures and genders should be able to live free from violence,” says Chas Desjarlais, District principal for Indigenous Education.

A painting by Haley Sengsavanh, 2020 graduate of Eric Hamber Secondary, is among the work included in the gallery:

“During my time at Eric Hamber Secondary school, I was lucky enough to study in the BC First Peoples 12 class. Besides learning about Indigenous history with visits to the art gallery and guest speakers, we also learned about current events. Throughout the year, pairs of students chose and presented on issues affecting Indigenous communities. The more presentations I listened to, the more glaringly evident the long-lasting impacts of colonization became. 

It can be easy to ignore these issues when they are not your lived reality. But we are all connected to Indigenous issues because we are all on Indigenous land. I live, work, and play on the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish nations. Just by living as a settler, I am occupying space on stolen land.

The 2019 final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) stated, “settler colonialist structures enabled this genocide.” Many of the 231 recommendations for change surround better education, including educating non-Indigenous peoples about Indigenous issues. I think the Vancouver School District’s and Indigenous Education’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls exhibit will be a great starting point to learn more about Canada’s colonial history. I implore everyone who visits the gallery to do more research and learn more about how to stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples in BC and Canada. Thank you.”

The installation is displayed until the end of February 2021.

Learn more about Indigenous Education at the District.

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