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Finding a Way Forward at the Truro library

A rug hooking and Mi’kmaw art project to recognize Every Child Matters


TRURO - It’s the coming together of two different art forms while delivering the same important message of continued education and awareness. And doing so while honouring the missing children and the survivors of residential schools.

On display at the Colchester East Hants Public Library is ‘Finding a Way Forward’, an exhibit by the Rug Hooking Guild of Nova Scotia (RHGNS) with works created using the artwork of five Mi’kmaw artists from around the Maritimes. The exhibit received funding support from Communitiesns and Support4culture and the Mi’kmaw artists are Tara Francis from Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick, Phyllis Grant from Pabineau First Nation also in New Brunswick, Noella Moore from Lennox Island First Nation in P.E.I., and a couple of Millbrook First Nation artists in Gerald Gloade and Lorne Julien.

RHGNS project organizer Debbie Tucker provided a bit of the background noting it started after the revelation of the 215 unmarked gravesites around the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C. in May of 2021. Tucker said the guild’s reaction was “what can we do?”

“There was a lot of discussion around whether it was appropriate for us to even take on such a project,” Tucker wrote in an email response to the Truro News. “We spent months contacting Mi’kmaw community leaders asking for guidance and their answers were all the same, 'we want people to hear our story and learn from it.'”

She said from there, they commissioned the five Maritime Mi’kmaw artists to produce designs relating to the Every Child Matters movement.

“Forty-nine rug hookers then hooked 66 rugs from those designs that have now become the heart of the project,” Tucker said. “Moving forward, it is our sincere hope the project will provide opportunities for conversations, education and continued awareness

as it honours the missing children and the survivors of residential schools.”

Julien, while attending an opening for the exhibit earlier this month, also talked about the artwork being a bridge towards discussions.

“It would be nice that it (continues to be) discussed and not forgotten about because it’s an important issue that all people need to be aware of,” Julien said. “I think, prior to those numbers coming out, people just never knew. I believe the majority of Canadian citizens had no idea even what a residential school was … the horrors of them.

“So, at least now, I feel like the Mi’kmaw have more allies; there are a lot of people who think, yeah, this wasn’t right. This is also part of the healing,” he said.

Julien also made the point that the ripple effect of residential schools is still being felt in First Nation communities.

“It took a lot of generations to get to this point so, I think, it may take a couple of generations for complete healing to take place as well,” he said, adding he hopes it will make people less judgmental when they see someone on the streets suffering from alcoholism and/or drug addiction.

“At least now people can maybe recognize that and say, ‘hey, maybe that’s why he’s on the streets … that is why he is struggling, maybe his mother was in residential school. A lot of those dysfunctions were, basically, taken back to the communities because these kids were snatched up from the ages of five years old until they were 18. So, yeah, it’s a lot and a lot of our people never, never got past it. You know, a lot of them never found recovery … never found healing.”

He said for him as an artist, it’s a way to articulate some of what he is feeling.

“I feel like it brings more awareness to the issue but doing it in a good way,” Julien said. “For example, a lot of times if you just asked me to get up and talk for a half hour I might be (a little hesitant), but if you give me a purpose and put me in front of a painting, I can probably talk for a while about it.”

Julien’s artwork which was recreated is titled Family Resurgence.

Moore’s work is called Every Child Matters and features a pair of moccasins as its main image.

“I had a sketch home of the moccasins and I thought they will represent a child from the residential school,” Moore said while gesturing towards the hanging rug hooking pieces based on her original work.

“This is the memory of my mom,” she said, pointing directly at the moccasins. “My mom was in the Shubenacadie (residential school), so that’s the memory of my mom.”

Guild member Tanya Mcnutt noted they first did a project with Mi’kmaw artists in 2017 called Hooked on Mi’kmaw Art.

“It was on display at the Millbrook Cultural Centre,” Mcnutt said. “They (Mi’kmaw artists) have been incredibly generous with their artwork, allowing us to replicate their art in our medium.”

The Finding a Way exhibit will be on display at the local library, located on Prince Street in downtown Truro, until April 27. The RHGNS’S next exhibit will be at the Fundy Geological Museum in Parrsboro, this summer.

“We are continually seeking funding to continue to travel the exhibit to as much of the Maritimes as we can,” Tucker said. “The RHGNS is a nonprofit and funding for exhibiting through grants is critical.”

For more on RHGNS, visit their website at or Facebook page. For more on displays or events at the library, visit

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