Residential School Ceramics
Each year, September 30 marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The day honours the children who never returned home and Survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.
A few years ago, Roger Lewis (Mi’kmaq Cultural Heritage Curator) 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.
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.