Vancouver Art Gallery Commemorates National Day of Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day

With special performances at šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl'e7énḵ Square and the Elder in Residence Program

Thunderbird performed by Joseph Paul, Photo: Sarah Race, Courtesy of Tsatsu Stalqayu and Mortal Coil Performance Society

September 29, 2021, VANCOUVER, BC // Traditional Coast Salish Lands including the Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm), Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw) and Tsleil-Waututh (səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ) Nations

The Vancouver Art Gallery invites the public to a special event to mark Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday, September 30 at 12 pm (noon) by the steps of the Gallery at šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl’e7énḵ Square (formerly known as Vancouver Art Gallery North Plaza).

On the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, the Gallery is also pleased to announce the launch of our Elder in Residence program. The Elder in Residence aims to provide counsel, support, and guidance to staff while promoting understanding and respect for Indigenous perspectives, culture and values.

The Gallery’s Inaugural Elder in Residence is Skwetsimeltxw Willard ‘Buddy’ Joseph. An artist, master weaver, educator, he is also the former Director of Housing & Capital Projects for Squamish Nation. Along with Chief Janice George and Leslie Tepper, he co-authored the 2017 book, Salish Blankets: Robes of Protection and Transformation, Symbols of Wealth as well as co-founded L’hen Awtxw Weaving House to share the teachings and practice of traditional Coast Salish wool weaving. Joseph also co-founded the M̓i tel’nexw Leadership Transformation, a 4-part online seminar designed to share teachings of Indigenous resilience. Joseph joined the Gallery in February 2021, commencing with a traditional brushing ceremony to cleanse the Gallery’s historic building, a former Court House.

Co-created by Tsatsu Stalqayu, Mortal Coil and Butterflies in Spirit, Xweýene:msta:m ?əkwəsqwel, seýeḿ (translation: call to witness/listen to respected one) is a performance to honour Orange Shirt Day on Thursday, September 30 presented by the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Blending traditional Coast Salish song and regalia with contemporary music and performance, Xweýene:msta:m ?əkwəsqwel, seýeḿ asks the viewer to bear witness to the ongoing tragedy of the lost children of Canada’s residential schools and the country’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The pain and grief of these unimaginable losses are an integral part of the presentation, yet Xweýene:msta:m ?əkwəsqwel, seýeḿ ultimately also offers a message of hope that allows the audience to bear witness to the strength and resilience of the Indigenous peoples of this land.

Bearing witness, the act of honouring and remembrance in a public forum is an important and crucial component of Coast Salish culture. In a blending of ‘western’ and Coast Salish performance, Xweýene:msta:m ?əkwəsqwel, seýeḿ asks us all to always remember and by doing so begin the work towards true reconciliation and redress.  Performers will include Mortal Coil Performance Society, Tsatsu Stalqayu (Coastal Wolf Pack) and Butterflies in Spirit.

“Orange Shirt Day and the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation serves to honour the Survivors, families and communities impacted by the residential school system and the continued trauma experienced by Indigenous communities throughout Canada,” says Anthony Kiendl, Vancouver Art Gallery CEO and Gallery Director. “As an arts institution, we recognize the importance of officially honouring our Indigenous peoples.  The September 30 commemoration, the elder in residence and other upcoming programs and projects align with the Gallery’s ongoing commitment and actions to advance reconciliation with Indigenous nations.”

Vancouver Art Gallery recently announced Rogers as the major sponsor of its Indigenous public programing, celebrating creativity, diversity and resilience.  This in-person, online, or live-streaming programming to broad-based audiences will provide an opportunity for audiences to deepen their experience and learning about Indigenous cultures.

This commemorative event is complimentary and open to the public and will take place on September 30, 2021, at šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl’e7énḵ Square (formerly known as the Vancouver Art Gallery North Plaza) at 12 pm (noon). Current Covid-19 safety protocols will be in effect.

Official Sponsor of Indigenous Related Public & Education Programs: