The Gary Miller Art Project: Artistic Response From a Mohawk Institute Survivor

Dr. Neal Keating (Department of Anthropology) has been awarded a $75,000 grant from the Survivors’ Secretariat in Six Nations Grand River Territory to lead The Gary Miller Art Project.

Dr. Keating is partnering with the Native North American Traveling College in Akwesasne Mohawk Nation Territory to carry out the Project.

The Project centers on a series of artworks created by R. G. Miller, in response to his childhood internment in an Indian residential school, known as the Mohawk Institute. The art expresses Miller’s experience of what the Mohawk Institute was, what happened to him there, and how he has dealt with it ever since. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, at least 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families by government and church agents and placed in residential schools in Canada. Recent estimates by the US Secretary of the Interior suggest more than twice that number of Indigenous children were similarly taken away from their families in the US, and placed in Indian boarding schools.

In Canada, thousands of Survivors of these institutions have given oral testimony about the chronic abuses they experienced as children at the hands of priests and ministers and other non-Indigenous staff at these places. Miller is the first and so far only Survivor to create visual art about his experience. The art is powerful and disturbing.

In 2015 a federally funded Canada Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded its investigation of the Indian residential school system in Canada by finding it constituted a system of genocide, designed to eliminate Native Peoples from the landscape. Regarding the Mohawk Institute, there are over 30 Indigenous communities from which children were taken and brought to the Mohawk Institute, including Haudenosaunee, Cree, and Anishinabe territories. Many children ran away from these places and we are continuing to learn that many of them died there.

The Gary Miller Art Project aims to bring the art to 10 of these communities, in addition to offering the art to public museums and galleries in North America, creating a co-authored book, a documentary film, and an associated web portal.  

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Posted: June 29, 2022