( photo -- thanks to Annette Witteman )
Sunday, November 22, 2015
MayneIsland’s John Aitken, multi-media artist and activist, has done much to create dialogue around First Nations issues in our community, and on Sunday, November 22, we participated in a ceremony of his design. Some of John’s initiatives have included: the community reading of The Inconvenient Indian, the talking circles that followed, the celebration of the first National Aboriginal Day in the Gulf Islands in 2015. It was time for another MayneIsland happening, something visual this time. In this year of the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report and inspired by Jamie Black’s 2011 original art installation, John invited the community to bring red dresses to Emma and Felix Jack Park.
Under the arms of the Honouring Figure, carved by John in 2009, we met, among the empty red dresses. Only the women were missing.
Sage, cedar, sweet grass, tobacco
Cold wind on legs and faces
Smell of smoke so sweet
Red dresses wait
Spirits cry out to come home
Spirits all around
In the smoke, in the smoke, on the wind, in the sky
Come home, the elders call
The trees call
Call the spirits to come home
Only respect here
Only love here
One candle, like a beacon, illuminates one red dress throughout the night.
Dawn came. Rain came. School children came to pay their respects. By noon the dresses were gone.