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Dreamcatcher comes down

(Courtesy Nick Huard)

A giant dreamcatcher created by Mi’kmaq elder and residential school survivor Nick Huard, with the help of children from communities across Canada, is now without a home.

It was commissioned by the Confederation Centre for the Arts in Prince Edward Island as part of a Canada-wide initiative to encourage youth to dream for a better world in the context of the 150th anniversary of the confederation of Canada.

Called The Dreams of What Canada Should Be, this installation had been on display at the centre since 2017 and was comprised of 215 dreamcatchers made by children from coast to coast to coast.

It was taken down on December 1 despite repeated requests by Huard, who has lived in Kahnawake for over 30 years, that the Confederation centre purchases it to display it permanently.

Huard was paid for the time spent travelling and teaching the kids to make their dreamcatchers, but he was not paid for the dreamcatcher itself. He still owns it – just not by choice.

Steve Bellamy of the Confederation Centre said in an email response that though the centre understands Huard is disappointed that a home has not been found for the dreamcatcher, the contract signed between both parties never included the purchase of the piece.

“They’re storing it for me until we find a place for it,” said Huard. “I just don’t want the Confederation Centre to become an ‘oubliette’ for the dreamcatcher, a place to store it and forget about it, let it die. I don’t want that.”

“It’s important – it’s the dreams of the kids of Canada. Not just Native kids, it’s kids of all nationalities.”

Some of the kids who participated in the creation of the dreamcatcher spoke of their dreams for Canada in a video commemorating the project.

Courtesy Nick Huard

They dreamed of a clean environment, equal opportunity for all youth, drinking water and good housing for the north, a world where everyone is happy and can speak their language.

“I won’t give up because that big dreamcatcher is made up the dreams of the children of Canada.”

The number of kids who participated in making the dreamcatcher – 215 – caused an eerie feeling for Huard when the discovery at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School was announced earlier this year.

“It gives it, for me, more power, more importance,” he said.

Huard said he has contacted museums, foundations and cultural centres across the country, with no success finding a new home for the dreamcatcher.

“I feel like a hockey puck, passed from one side to the other. When you think you’re about to score, the referee blows the whistle.”

He contacted the Museum of Civilization in Quebec City – they claim to have no space for it, he said.

Contacting the office of minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller, prompted a response encouraging him to submit a request that it be purchased by the Indigenous Art Centre of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. The centre acquires new pieces every two years and just completed its most recent acquisition period.

His dream for the dreamcatcher, he said, would be for it to hang in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill “so when the politicians walk in, they are reminded why they are there.”

But for now, all Huard can do is keep trying – and keep hoping someone agrees to buy the dreamcatcher and find a home for the dreams of the 215 kids.

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