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Indigenous Arts & Stories - Puppetmaster


2016 - Art Winner

Vitina Shannacappo

Winnipeg, MB
Anishinaabe/Ojibway/First Nations
Age 14

Author's Statement

My piece focuses on the residential schools indigenous people were forced to go to.
In residential schools, I felt their goal was to morph the indigenous people into their ideal image of who they thought they should be; to convert their culture and change them into what they thought was better.
In the picture, there is a religious figure portrayed as a puppet master. Religious figures ran the residential schools and were in charge of the children being held there. He has strings tied to his fingers tied to the indigenous man/puppet. This was meant to show how the indigenous people were controlled by the teacher and had no freedom. The man has to do anything the man commands, regardless if it’s right or wrong because he’s helpless and can’t do anything about it. He doesn’t have the right to defy, just like in the residential schools. The indigenous man has white skin patches throughout his body. That’s supposed to show his culture and race slowly being converted through the teacher’s control.
I chose to do this art piece because some of my grandparents and great grandparents went to residential schools. My grandma would tell me stories about the residential schools that family members had to go to. When I listened, I imagined these prisons with these small kids that had no freedom at all, where they had to be obedient with no exception. I got to see the impact residential schools had. They refused to take “selfies” because when they were at residential school, they were taught to not love themselves. I sympathize with these people. To feel shame seeing yourself in a picture is a problem, and those schools are what caused that issue. With all of this, I was able to interpret what residential schools were like.