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Standing in front of a low table flickering with gleams of light from paper baskets Peter Morin acknowledged all the people who shared a story for the Memory Talking Stick project.

Acknowledgment

We were surrounded by the stories and activities; the paper baskets hold the stories in the same way that the drawings mark the wall, the stitches tighten the moccasins and the voices echo in the ear. Morin collect 114 stories from the community 114 stories of unhappiness and suffering also 114 stories of strength. Morin’s work and practice engages in a healing process with elders, survivors and youth; Morin reminded us of today’s date: June 12, the second anniversary of the Canadian government’s apology for assimilation practices in Canada’s residential schools.

Invitation

The doorway into the project is through identity and home.

Invitation

Cleansing

Morin and friends carry cedar baskets around the room – we each take turns smelling the offering. As we breathe in we cleanse our cheeks, foreheads and hair in the vapors of deerskin, cedar bark, smoke, fire. Now we all have the memory of being washed in that smell forever. “Smell is memory, it all comes home back in a rush”, says Morin.

Change

Morin’s work and practice is about direct experience and exchange: listen to a story and a task is placed on you to respond, to share a story in return or retell a story. The method is radically effective. It holds the potential for change. Start asking both friends and chance encounters: – “Who are your people?”

Memory Talking Stick Project Peter Morin Victoria BC 2010

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Peter Morin is a visual and performance artist of the Crow clan of the Tahltan Nation. Morin describes his series of performances, 12 Making Objects: 12 Indigenous interventions a.k.a First Nation’s DADA, as “finding ways to address the history of the Residential Schools and the effect of these schools on the aboriginal community and memory.” Morin’s performances acknowledge the pain and struggle caused by the Residential schools in history that is still present in our culture today. This work addresses the past, land stolen, children stolen, but his work honors the memory by creating ceremony through performance to connect with Aboriginal experiences.

Morin uses objects and actions to communicate and transform the gallery spaces and all the objects are left on display; Morin covered a copy of the 1876 Indian Act in animal fat,

made button blankets adorned with braided hair

imprinted moccasin tongues on the walls

drew with salt and tobacco salmon swimming

performed a telephone call to Joseph Beuys

smudged cedar smoke

fried bannock for everyone

cut his hair off while reciting all the words he knows in Tahltan

told stories about his grandmother by reading a deerskin jacket

constructed a tent of branches, string and bunting

danced, wearing layers of red blindfolds to “every breath you take” by P. Diddy

Morin’s actions and objects energize the gallery space. The blindfold dance reveals stories in an interior landscape and under these stories, more stories, aboriginal strata, flora and fauna. Perhaps the beaded deerskin jacket is a living leather letter written by a grandmother to a stolen child; it is a story we can only read with our hands. Perhaps the raw small stick tent is a counter-structure to the residential schools; we can experience an entire leafy encampment in place of bricks and plaster. Perhaps in cutting his hair Morin frees a stone of loss and grief – while pinning the braided hair onto the button blankets is a re-attachment to glory and culture. The salt, tobacco, cedar and sage smoke mingle and intervene in the space and speaking Tahltan words out-loud inverts the space; the words are like bling. And perhaps the soft moccasins, tongues and sole, rhythm and breath, object and story, hold everything together.

Morin quotes his grandmother “with these stories of ours we can escape almost anything.”

12 Making Objects: 12 Indigenous interventions a.k.a First Nation’s DADA, Peter Morin 2009 Artist in Residence Camosun College and Open Space, Victoria BC