Dance with us as you can…: Art, Artist, and Witness(ing) in Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Journey

It appears your Web browser is not configured to display PDF files. Download adobe Acrobat or click here to download the PDF file.

Click here to download the PDF file.


Dewar, Jonathan Robert




This dissertation explores, through in-depth interviews, the perspectives of artists and curators with regard to the question of the roles of art and artist – and the themes of community, responsibility, and practice – in truth, healing, and reconciliation during the early through late stages of the 2008-2015 mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), as its National Events, statement taking, and other programming began to play out across the country. The author presents the findings from these interviews alongside observations drawn from the unique positioning afforded to him through his professional work in healing and reconciliation-focused education and research roles at the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (2007-2012) and the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (2012-2016) about the ways art and artists were invoked and involved in the work of the TRC, alongside it, and/or in response to it. A chapter exploring Indigenous writing and reconciliation, with reference to the work of Basil Johnston, Jeannette Armstrong, Tomson Highway, Maria Campbell, Richard Wagamese, and many others, leads into three additional case studies. The first explores the challenges of exhibiting the legacies of Residential Schools, focusing on Jeff Thomas’ seminal curatorial work on the archival photograph-based exhibition Where Are the Children? Healing the Legacy of Residential Schools and Heather Igloliorte’s curatorial work on the exhibition ‘We were so far away…’: The Inuit Experience of Residential Schools, itself a response to feedback on Where Are the Children? Both examinations draw extensively from the author’s interviews with the curators. The final two chapters are case studies of two bodies of work, R. G. Miller’s 2008 Mush Hole Remembered and the community-based, collaborative memorial project Walking With Our Sisters, respectively, that the author was privileged to engage with in critical, collaborative, and curatorial capacities. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of research findings and recommendations for additional work in this increasingly expansive area of art, curatorial, and research practice.


Canadian Studies
Native American Studies
Fine Arts




Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

Doctor of Philosophy: 

Thesis Degree Level: 


Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Canadian Studies

Parent Collection: 

Theses and Dissertations

Items in CURVE are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated. They are made available with permission from the author(s).