Indigenous Artwork Takes Place at Whitehorse Courthouse

Unveiled last Friday at the Whitehorse courthouse, the work forget me not depicts a matriarchal society dotted with forget-me-nots covering cracks.

These embody those who were lost during the residential school period in Carcross. The flowers symbolize the roots that we dig into our culturessays artist Violet Gatesby, a member of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.

I made many flowers to show that despite all the difficulties, we are reborn. »

A quote from Violet Gatensby, Indigenous artist

Gatensby hopes her work will help Indigenous people feel seen, heard and supported when they come to court.

A holistic bridge

For Peter Johnston, Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, the inauguration sets a precedent for the territory and the country.

Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston poses in front of artwork by artist Violet Gatensby at the Whitehorse courthouse.

Photo: Sissi de Flaviis/CBC

He thinks the work will serve as holistic bridge to change the discourse and the way the justice system treats Indigenous people.

We are still very overrepresented [dans le système]. So it’s good for us to see ourselves in a different light in a partnership, but also to move forward through our actions.

He also hopes the painting will act as an object of reflection for those entering the palace.

It’s a lonely place, you need comfort and a sense of security and support when you’re in this situation. So I hope that will bring this comfort, but also perhaps this idea of ​​responsibility which is just as important in the legal system.

Violet Gatensby claims to have had the idea for her work when she took part in her first canoe trip with her father.

We were on the site of the old Carcross boarding school. My dad was saying a prayer and talking about the forget-me-nots there, and it clicked.

The work, which is partly carved, reveals a traditional Tlingit folded box motif. The faces around the painting represent the Indigenous community while the cracks refer to cultural genocide, residential schools, and missing and murdered girls and women.

Decolonize the justice system

This project, carried out in collaboration with the Council of Yukon First Nations, is part of a broader desire to make the courts and the judicial system more culturally inclusive for the First Nations of the territory.

Forget Me Not will be on public view in September at the Whitehorse Courthouse.

Photo: Sissi de Flaviis/CBC

Territorial Court Chief Justice Michael Cozens believes the judiciary must take action to recognize and redress the harm done to First Nations and Indigenous peoples in Canada by government policies such as the residential school system.

We understand our obligation to work for reconciliation and to bring restorative justice to those who come before us.

forget me not, which means forget-me-not in French, is on display in courtroom number five of the building on 2nd Avenue. The public will be able to discover it in September when the renovations taking place in the entrance are completed.

A small acrylic reproduction will be visible just at the entrance of the room so that visitors can understand the meaning of the work before entering the courtroom.

With information from Sissi de Flaviis

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