The Bentwood Box

Last night Lucy and the other nine honorees who have created poems, blogs, stories, and art to imagine what reconciliation in the context of Indigenous Peoples, were celebrated with a celebration meal. The Truth and Reconciliation offices at the University of Manitoba was the site and the 10 honorees and their parents were spread around the room, at each table sat two residential school survivors. The table/meal conversations were deep and the sharing included laughter and tears.

At one point an Elder, also a residential school survivor, spoke of his pride in the Bentwood Box. This unique beautifully crafted box travelled across the country and at each stop people were invited to speak their pain and hopes into this sacred vessel. Thus the box is not only a stunning piece of art, it also holds sacred stories that survivors believe will live well after they are gone. I could not keep my eyes off the box throughout the entire evening.

Benton Box.jpg

A Bentwood Box, commissioned by the TRC, arrived at the Commission office in Ottawa, Ontario on April 27, 2009, from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, where it was steamed and bent from a single piece of red cedar.

Carved by Coast Salish artist Luke Marston, the TRC Bentwood Box is a lasting tribute to all Indian Residential School survivors. The carved panels represent the unique cultures of former First Nations, Inuit and Métis students. The Box will travel with the TRC to its seven national events throughout Canada, once the new Commission is appointed.

The TRC Bentwood Box reflects the strength and resilience of residential school survivors and their descendants, and honours those survivors who are no longer living. The artist pays respect to his own grandmother by depicting her residential schools experiences at Kuper Island in the carvings.

As the Box travels with the Commission to different provinces and territories, offerings will be made to it to commemorate personal journeys toward healing and reconciliation. At the end of the TRC’s mandate, it will be housed in a permanent venue, which is still to be determined.

"So many of our people suffer from the abuse of residential schools,” said Mr. Marston. “I feel that the purpose of this Box will change Canada forever. It was a great honour to be selected to carve this box for all the students of former residential schools."

The Bentwood Box was transferred to the TRC during a special blanket ceremony at the opening of the 5th Annual Cowichan International Aboriginal Film Festival in Duncan, British Columbia on April 16. The ceremony honoured the local artist and recognized the transfer of the sacred Box as it was prepared to begin its journeys with the TRC.