Public art to commemorate Cree youth who led the struggle for a new school in Attawapiskat
SUDBURY – Shannen Koostachin, a young Cree activist from Attawapiskat First Nation, who bravely challenged the Minister of Indian Affairs, and was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize, will be honoured in 2015 – and lovingly remembered – with a bronze sculpture and special butterfly benches in New Liskeard, Ontario, where she went to high school.
When the only elementary school in Attawapiskat was condemned, and replaced with portable trailers that were cold and mice-infested, Koostachin led the youth-driven Attawapiskat School Campaign, persistently advocating for a “safe and comfy” school. The students eventually succeeded, but Shannen didn’t live to see it – she was fifteen years old when her life suddenly ended in a motor vehicle accident in 2010. Family, friends and community started Shannen’s Dream: A campaign for decent schools for all First Nations children across Canada, and for quality, culturally-based education.
Jules Arita Koostachin, a relative of Shannen’s, voluntarily leads the commemorative project, with the blessing of Shannen’s parents. The project includes a 4 ½ foot bronze sculpture on a granite base, butterfly benches near the monument, and a short documentary film recording the creation of the public art installation. “Shannen loved butterflies,” said Koostachin. “In Cree culture, butterflies represent our youth, and transformation.”
A Cree from Attawapiskat First Nation, Koostachin currently lives in Sudbury. A multi-media artist (www.visjuellesproductions.ca) and social activist, she works at Laurentian University, as the Equity and Diversity Advisor in the Human Rights Office, and as an educator at the University of Sudbury’s Indigenous Studies Program. Koostachin also recruits for the Indigenous Visual Culture Program at OCADU, Toronto.
The project team also includes Design/Cultural Consultant Kenneth (Jake) Chakasim, lecturer with the Laurentian University School of Architecture, and Rick Miller (www.vimeo.com/rickmiller), an accomplished Canadian photographer and videographer.
Tyler Fauvelle, a professional sculptor based in Sudbury, Ontario, has been commissioned to create the figurative bronze sculpture, which will depict Shannen dancing in traditional regalia, and incorporate elements reflecting her Cree culture. (www.tylerfauvelle.ca)
“Ontario Arts Council funding will cover part of the project,” said Koostachin, “but we still need to raise $25,000 to finish the monument, which we plan to unveil by October 2015.” The team recently launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign, and hopes that those who admired the spirited young activist will help fund this grass-roots commemoration.
“Shannen is my hero. Her advocacy for equitable access to education promoted a change in how we look at the human rights of all children in Canada. This monument is a tribute to her life, and I love that there’s a park close to the proposed site. The laughter of the children will feed her spirit.”
Donations can be made via https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/shannen-koostachin-monument,
or by cheque/money order payable to VisJuelles Productions Inc., 152 Edmund Street, Sudbury, Ontario, P3E 1L7.
For more information, please contact Jules Koostachin at firstname.lastname@example.org