The Town of Bracebridge’s Public Arts Advisory Committee will help Theresa Buker and the Muskoka Indigenous Friendship Centre create a quilt that will be gifted to the town.
In late May, 215 graves were found buried near a former residential school in British Columbia. It was not long after the initial news broke that Bracebridge resident Niso Makwa began tying orange ribbons across the walkway at the Bracebridge Falls.
“Thank you for not stopping this brave young man,” Buker told Bracebridge’s General Committee earlier this month. “A man not looking to deface or litter the town, but rather to bring a place of healing for everyone around. A man with a family history of generational trauma caused by residential schools silently started a project at the silent bridge,” she said.
Makwa continued to tie ribbons at the falls as more unmarked graves were unearthed and eventually, what he was doing was noticed.
Buker and the friendship centre heard of what he was doing and offered their support.
Buker says, at any point, the town could have stepped in and stopped this, but didn’t. She believes the town made a “huge step forward” by supporting Makwa and not hindering him.
The ribbons were taken down in September as part of the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. “So now what, do we move on and forget,” Buker asked committee.
With over 6,000 ribbons placed, Buker says they couldn’t let them go to waste. “Families were torn apart and survivors are dealing with generational PTSD and more,” she said. “We cannot continue to hide from the truth anymore.”
Buker told committee she doesn’t know what the quilt will look like yet. That’s because she wants it to be shaped by the community. Buker said she wants everyone from those with Indigenous backgrounds to people that don’t have any ties to Indigenous peoples to help, along with students, people who used to quilt but have long since stopped, and anyone else interested.
She said the project will serve as one of healing and moving forward. “A visual arts display that reflects the sad but undeniable truth across our land,” added Buker, who is Metis. “Quilts and blankets are an important part of our culture.”
It hasn’t been decided yet where the quilt will hang when it’s completed.
“We know it’s vitally important to not just acknowledge what happened on one day, but every day,” Mayor Graydon Smith said. He added that he’s proud of how the town has done since the news of the unmarked graves was first heard by Canadians, but said there’s more that needs to be done.
The motion to refer Buker’s project to the Public Arts Advisory Committee was approved by council at their Dec. 22nd meeting.