To celebrate both Treaties Recognition Week and U of T’s Indigenous Education Week, First Nations House launched an art exhibition titled Reclaiming: A Landback Installation that went on display on Monday, November 1 and continued throughout the entire week.

Located at the North Courtyard of the Earth Sciences Building at 22 Russell Street, the Landback Installation was made in the structure of a shelter, symbolizing this year’s theme of land acknowledgement and reclamation. 

In emails to The Varsity, Shane Kelsey discussed the curation process of the event, and Kieran Rice discussed the significance of the art installation in terms of raising awareness for Indigenous legacies and restoring Indigenous community on campus after the pandemic. Kelsey is an employee at the First Nations House, a filmmaker, and a U of T student and Rice is a First Nations House blogger and a first-year student at U of T.

Communicating Indigenous memories through film

The Landback Installation featured short films and music videos from various Indigenous artists, many of which were provided by Wapikoni Mobile as well as other organizations that are dedicated to featuring and supporting Indigenous filmmakers across Canada.

Kelsey was in charge of selecting the short films and music videos. In an email to The Varsity, Kelsey wrote, “The common theme amongst the chosen films and music videos is Indigenous identity, culture, language, history, experience, presence, ways of understanding, and reclaiming of space.” 

Kelsey selected artists from various backgrounds. Despite their differences, however, “[the artists] all share the same qualities and speak to a common existence and rebellion from colonial standards and norms,” wrote Kelsey.

One of the films displayed at the installation — Giiwebatoo (Run Home), directed by Shane Kejick — tells the horrors of the Residential School System by recounting the story of a young boy’s escape from a residential school. Filmed and edited within a week, it has been played at several film festivals including the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco and Fantasia International Film Festival in Montréal, Québec.

Restoring Indigenous community on campus

The Landback Installation reflected on land reclamation and treaty recognition. For first-year students like Rice, it also provided a space to connect with the Indigenous community on campus after First Nations House’s year-long closure due to renovation, and the isolation created by the pandemic. 

“During my visit to the installation, it was my first time meeting contacts from First Nations House in person, as opposed to via zoom,” wrote Rice in an email to The Varsity. “Personally, I’ve found it challenging to meet other Indigenous students this year.”

In a blog post about his experience at the installation, Rice wrote that being able to connect with other Indigenous students for the first time in a while was a great experience.