Aboriginal artist and carver Isadore Charters worked on his “healing pole” under a tent during breaks at the B.C. MB convention, May 3–4. Charters, who lives in Chilliwack, B.C., and attends Sardis Community Church, is carving the totem to give expression to elements that brought comfort and healing following his experiences in the Indian residential school system. Images on the yellow cedar pole will include Jesus, a nurturing nun, blankets from both Aboriginal and Mennonite traditions, and even Zorro.
“When I carve on this pole, I let go of my anger and my hurt. The new me comes out because I know that people are trying to help and not just trying to forget,” says Charters. The pole is travelling to churches and communities throughout B.C., spurring conversations focused on healing, truth telling, and relationship building. Begun in 2011, the pole will be displayed at the site of Charters’ residential school in the B.C. Interior when complete.
Between 1831 and 1996, more than 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and sent to residential schools. Indigenous languages and cultures were suppressed or ridiculed. Charters recalls the first time he was able to perform an Aboriginal dance since his childhood on the reserve: “It was at my brother’s funeral a few years ago. I finally got to dance. I was crying. I was dancing for my brother.”
Charters, in collaboration with Sardis Community Church, Outreach Canada, and MCC, invites Mennonite Brethren to attend Vancouver’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Pacific National Exhibition Fairgrounds, Sept. 18–21, 2013.