Reconciliation is deep and urgent work that must be intentionally, consistently and pervasively tended to at every possible opportunity in attempts to untangle the devastation of colonialization.

In a small unassuming village, outside of Wiarton, the residents of Oxenden have taken this commitment to heart. Recognizing their prominent location at the Grey Road 1 and and Zion Church Road intersection, as well as being an on-road section of the Bruce Trail, they decided that one way of expressing their commitment to reconciliation and decolonization would be to raise funds to commission an Indigenous artist to tell their story through public art.

A call for proposals is currently out for Indigenous artists or collaboratives to submit ideas for either a 2-dimensional mural to be affixed to a prominent corner building, or a sculptural piece to be installed at one corner of the intersection. The deadline for the call for proposals has been extended. A simple 2 page submission and sketch are due Friday December 3, with pieces to be installed next summer.

“The first mistake that settlers and colonists made was not listening to and learning from the original inhabitants of this land,” says Oxenden resident and Métis descendant Kelsey Carriere. “The rich culture and incredible knowledge of the existing Indigenous people were disregarded which perpetuated centuries of colonial-driven devastation. It is time to listen deeply, to defer to the long-ignored voices of this land’s original inhabitants and to support Indigenous partners with initiatives that will have meaningful impact towards decolonization in our communities and nation-wide.”

“Our next step now is to acknowledge the past, learn from the mistakes made and move forward in the true spirit of truth and reconciliation,” says Indigenous advisor Edie Duncan.

The idea for the public art project stemmed from a neighbourhood picnic during Canada’s 150 where, while exploring the history of this village, we as a community humbly realized the role we could be playing in recognizing the deeper histories of the Indigenous communities that stewarded this land for over 10,000 years before contact and to whom we owe deep gratitude.

Oxenden was originally an Indigenous settlement, but once settler expansion set in, its advantageous position beside a waterfall and on Colpoys Bay made it a desirable location for sawmills and shipping, and the original inhabitants were displaced across the bay to Neyaashiinigmiing and to the Christian Islands to join Beausoleil First Nation.

Donations to the project are tax-deductible, and can be made directly online by selecting the DONATE button at Elephant Thoughts or by contacting the Oxenden Neighbours at [email protected]



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