Collaborative video project honouring residential school survivors premieres at Mount Allison
SACKVILLE, NB — An intercultural partnership between Indigenous Elders, artists and educators and a Mount Allison Music professor has resulted in a new video project to honour and share the experiences of an Indian Residential School survivor and her family.
The project, entitled How Do We Listen? began in 2017 and is a collaboration between Linda Pearse, associate professor of Music at Mount Allison, Angela (Angee) Acquin, Wolastoq singer, drummer, and educator, award-winning Mi’kmaq singer, drummer, and composer Hubert Francis, Brian Francis, a Mi’kmaq filmmaker and Elder, and Ann Waltner, a historian from the University of Minnesota.
The How Do We Listen? project tells the story of the Acquin family and their experience in the residential school system. Angee’s grandmother, Virginia Acquin, and sister, Doris, were sent to the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. Doris drowned while at the school. Virginia suffered the long-term effects of her experiences there, intensified by the grief and guilt connected with the death of her sister. How Do We Listen? shares their story through the nuanced conversation of music, text, and soundscape.
“The project was a co-collaboration and really a beautiful experience for me,” says Acquin. “To take such a painful story from my family and bring it to light in this way was so moving and such a bonding experience, we were all speaking the same language through music and culture. I think Indigenous audiences will be proud to have these truths told in this collaborative setting. We’ve got to trust each other to go through this process together and move forward.”
How Do We Listen? includes works from Indigenous performers and drummers, performers of early European music, a jazz musician and composer, a historian, and a literary scholar. Pearse says the project’s title and program is intended, in part, to open both minds and ears of settler audiences.
“The title, ‘How Do We Listen?’ puts the onus on non-Indigenous people, those who need to engage actively in the processes of decolonization and whose ability to connect meaningfully with Indigenous peoples can contribute to the betterment of our society as a whole,” says Pearse. “We are so honoured to work with Angee, Hubert, and Brian on this project.”
The group previously met on the Mount Allison campus for a week-long collaboration in 2017-18 and performed at high schools across New Brunswick in 2018.
How Do We Listen? can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/gRJzX0crV2Q
Photo captions: Angee Aquin; The group, with Pearse directing, performs at a 2018 meeting in Mount Allison’s Brunton Auditorium