Minda Burley only has one photo of herself from when she was a baby.
“It was put in a newspaper to adopt a Métis child, and that’s how our family found us to adopt my biological sister Joanne and I,” Burley told Global News.
It was only recently she discovered she was part of the Sixties Scoop – a period where thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their homes and given to non-Indigenous households.
Read more: ‘We’re invisible’: Amid residential school reckoning, ’60s Scoop survivors in B.C. want action
Burley’s photo now represents the thousands of young children stripped of their culture and shines a light on a shadowed portion of Canadian history.
Her story and those of so many others involved in the Sixties Scoop became a focal point of learning at Quispamsis Middle School this past school year.
On Friday, the Grade 8 classes finished an art installation project at the QPlex in Quispamsis, N.B., that recreated Burley’s sole infant photo.
“It’s bringing out all my brothers and sisters, and hearing their stories and what they’ve gone through, ’cause a lot has happened to them. It’s a lot worse than anything anybody would really want to know,” Burley said.
“This is going to make them feel better and hopefully bring out what has happened to us and everybody from the Sixties Scoop.”
Burley noted it was a great initiative, one that plays a significant role in reconciliation and raising awareness.
Created with more than 14,000 cardboard pieces, each square represents a certain part of the photo and is placed in a specific spot.
The learning portion of the project included background on the Sixties Scoop and specifically Burley’s story, as well as lessons around installation art.
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“It’s shocking to me, and I’ll probably take that away along with the experience of hearing the story and being able to share it with other people,” said Olivia Kennedy, a student at Quispamsis Middle School.
While the Sixties Scoop took place many years before they were born, the impact for students will likely last a lifetime.
“With the Sixties Scoop, they never got to see their family ever again, and I found that really impactful because I can’t imagine ever being taken away from my family and put into that process,” said student Sophie Lesser.
New Brunswick-based artist Bonny Hill is longtime friends with Burley, and helped create the idea for the installation project. After seeing the impact of the Minda Burley portrait, she hopes to bring similar projects to other schools in the region.
“A project like this just stays with you because it’s not just a one lesson reading from an article, reading from a book or watching a video, it’s a real person with a real story right in the room with you,” Hill noted.
She added those who did not have the opportunity to see the project will have to wait until they release a full-length video on social media that shows the process.