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Picking Up the Pieces: Residential School Memories and the Making of the Witness Blanket

Format: Hardcover
Status: In Print
Grade Levels: 10; 11; 12; University/College;
Authentic Canadian Content
Authentic Indigenous Text

Every object tells a story.

Picking Up the Pieces tells the story of the making of the Witness Blanket, a living work of art conceived and created by Indigenous artist Carey Newman. It includes hundreds of items collected from residential schools across Canada, everything from bricks, photos and letters to hockey skates, dolls and braids. Every object tells a story.

Carey takes the reader on a journey from the initial idea behind the Witness Blanket to the challenges in making it work to its completion. The story is told through the objects and the Survivors who donated them to the project. At every step in this important journey for children and adults alike, Carey is a guide, sharing his process and motivation behind the art. It's a very personal project. Carey's father is a residential school Survivor. Like the Blanket itself, Picking Up the Pieces calls on readers of all ages to bear witness to the residential school experience, a tragic piece of Canada’s history.

"In the traditions of my Salish ancestors, a blanket is gifted to uplight the spirit, protect the vulnerable or honour the strong. I made this blanket for the Survivors, and for the children who never came home; for the dispossessed, the displaced and the forgotten. I made this blanket so that I will never forget -- so that we will never forget." - Carey Newman

"Picking Up the Pieces is both a crucial record of history and an outstanding assertion of love and community. The story behind the creation of the powerful Witness Blanket project is one of great care and consideration, with residential school Survivors and their families at the centre. By sharing his own family's connection to a brutal and shameful part of Canadian history, renowned artist Carey Newman brilliantly guides us through the meticulous and thoughtful process of creating one of the most important pieces of art to exist in this country. I had the privilege of experiencing the Witness Blanket on its tour, and it was a poignant moment that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Reading how it all came together is yet another vital experience. Like the Witness Blanket itself, Picking Up the Pieces will educate and enlighten Canadians for generations to come. It's a must-read for anyone seeking to understand Canada's residential-school saga. Most importantly, it's a touchstone of community for those survivors and their families still on the path to healing." — Waubgeshig Rice, journalist and author of Moon of the Crusted Snow, March 2019

Educator Information
Themes: Indigenous Art, Reconciliation, Residential Schools, Survivor Stories, Intergenerational Trauma

Suitable for most ages (about 12 years+).  Useful social studies or Indigenous studies resource for pre-teens and teens; however, it does make reference to sexual, emotional, and physical abuse and trauma.

Recommended in the Canadian Indigenous Books for Schools 2019-2020 resource list for grades 11 and 12 and as a teacher resource.  Useful for these subjects: English Language Arts, Media Studies, Social Studies.

Additional Information
180 pages | 10.75" x 10.00"