Outside a building that used to host a First Nations art gallery, Jadeon Rathgeber and his family paint banners.
Several racist encounters lead Rathgeber to close the gallery after just two years and with the recent discoveries of hundreds of children’s graves at former residential school sites in Kamloops and elsewhere in the country, Rathgeber decided it was time to educate and advocate for reconciliation.
“This is my purpose,” he said. “Educating about the true history of Turtle Island.”
Rathgeber, or Medicine Bear, is Cree from Manitoba and has lived in Nakusp for around four years. On June 24, Rathgeber was planning on spending a third day painting for 12 hours.
The mural the group is painting consists of three banners. One section addresses common stereotypes on Indigenous people. The second defines and describes genocide – which goes beyond “outright killing people.”
The third section looks back at the history of Canada, what happened when settlers first made contact with the Indigenous people, talks about what is happening now and looks into the future–what does reconciliation look like?
For Rathgeber reconciliation looks like going into First Nations communities finding a single mother and Elder if you have extra money bring food sponsor a family. If you have a construction company going to the community and help fix a roof knock on someone’s door and see if they need help.
He also calls on people to understand Indigenous history and the role it plays in our present society and communities, and to write letters to our political representatives calling on them to take real action.
“We don’t want to make the story to be attack on people we just want them to understand where we are coming from and for them to begin to understand why the First Nations people are in the situation that they are in present day.”
Rathgeber was joined in the project by his mother Pat Bruderer, also known as Halfmoon Woman, a birch bark biter artist who taught a workshop in Revelstoke last week, and his sister Raeanna Sinclair, or Morning Star, as well as others.