Heritage Day 2023

February 14, 2023

Heritage Day 2023

Image of a hand made ceramic cat and bowl.

This Heritage Day provides another opportunity to shed light on the impact of residential schools and tell some of the lesser-known stories.

A few years ago, Roger Lewis (Curator of Mi’kmaw Cultural Heritage) discovered a photo of ceramics made at the Shubenacadie Residential School between 1940-1950. In the picture, young Mi’kmaw boys gather with beautiful ceramic vases. Speaking with community members and antique shop owners allowed Roger to locate two pieces made at the Shubenacadie Residential School. The bowl and cat pictured here are examples of what Roger found. Artist Alice Egan Hagan taught children at the school how to make ceramics. Hagan’s work was known for its swirling colours and must have instructed the children to create that effect. These pieces were then sold to the public, as seen from the price sticker on the bottom of the cat. The profits likely never found their way back to the creators.

Image of a hand made ceramic cat with a sticker on the bottom that reads: Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, $1.00.

Roger believes there are many more ceramic pieces like these in antique shops or personal collections. Often, a person may not know the significance of what they have. Roger welcomes anyone with similar pieces to contact him. Work like this is helping to fill in a huge blank spot in the history of Residential Schools.

Hear Roger Lewis's story in our new video

Honouring Rita Joe

Graphic with the text Honouring Rita Joe and an image of Rita Joe.

Elder Rita (Bernard) Joe, a member of the We’koqma’q Mi’kmaw Community, is this year’s honoree for Heritage Day. Rita Joe attended the Shubenacadie Residential School, and the impact of her experience was eloquently shared in her poetry. She spoke of the loss of language - a life-altering event for generations of Mi’kmaw people. As a published and celebrated author, Rita was instrumental in paving the way for other Mi’kmaq authors. Her greatest wish was to see more writings from her people and “that the children would read it.”

Check out the Heritage Day 2023 celebrations and resources.

Until the end of February, borrow the eBook "Song of Rita Joe" with no waitlist from the Nova Scotia Provincial Library: