Presented in English with French subtitles.
Content Advisory: This documentary contains coarse language and detailed accounts of physical and psychological abuse.
A battered shoe. Braids of hair. A hockey trophy. A wooden door. A black-and-white photograph. A piece of stained glass.
These items are silent witnesses of the residential school era (1870–1996). Together with 800 other objects, they have been given a voice in a 12-metre-long cedar artwork created by master carver Carey Newman as a national monument to the children who attended residential schools across the country.
Picking Up the Pieces: The Making of the Witness Blanket follows Newman as he and his team travel over 200,000 kilometres, visit 77 communities, meet over 10,000 people, and welcome “more than 800 contributions” into their care. Collected from residential schools, churches and government buildings, each object has a story to tell, and each survivor has something to say. Narrated by the artist, the film weaves together those stories with Carey’s personal journey, examining how profoundly art can open our hearts to the pain of truth and the beauty of resiliency.
You may wonder: Why a blanket?
Because blankets are universal symbols of protection. For many Indigenous Peoples, they identify who they are and where they are from, and are often worn in ceremonies and given as gifts. Blankets protect the young and provide comfort and warmth to all.
The makers of this documentary have made it freely available to share the power of storytelling.
You are invited to witness these stories.
This film shares traumatic stories of residential school Survivors. Please watch and share with gentleness. If you or your family members have a history with residential schools, make sure that you can connect with support before watching.
Picking Up the Pieces: The Making of the Witness Blanket is presented in collaboration with Media One Multimedia, Carey Newman, and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.