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Decolonizing Contracts – Transforming Relationships through Art and Indigenous Perspective
In 2011, Indigenous artist Carey Newman began work on a monumental artwork of national significance that has been named the Witness Blanket. Inspired by his father’s residential school experiences, Carey created an over 400 square foot art installation, made from hundreds of items reclaimed from Indian Residential Schools, churches, government buildings, as well as traditional and cultural structures from across Canada. The Witness Blanket stands as a national monument to recognize the atrocities of the Indian Residential School era, honour the generations of children that suffered and still suffer, and symbolize hope and the ongoing process of reconciliation.

In June 2015, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights opened its temporary exhibition, The Witness Blanket. In 2017, the Museum began discussions with Newman to consider sharing ‘custody and stewardship’ of the Witness Blanket. This relationship has included creating a new travelling version of the Blanket, a conservational assessment and extensive treatment of the original Blanket.

In October 2019, CMHR and Newman finalized the special agreement with an oral ceremony that solidified the relationship and made Canadian legal history. For the first time, a federal Crown Corporation had ratified a legally binding contract through Indigenous traditions; written documents and an oral ceremony were given equal weight in the contract. It is an agreement that lives in two worlds – in traditional Indigenous ways, but written in “Western contract legalese.” The parties to this agreement have welcomed this unique opportunity to expand leadership in re-evaluating institutional processes that better respect Indigenous ways of knowing and being.

The presentation will briefly introduce the Witness Blanket project, but more specifically will discuss the process of respecting both traditional Indigenous and Western ways of cooperation, which can be given equal weight in the contract/legal process.

Nov 29, 2021 12:30 PM in Central Time (US and Canada)

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