By Meghan Power
Diana Frost, an Algonquin Mètis from Quebec, is the founder of the Colouring it Forward Society and social enterprise. In 2021, CIF Reconciliation Society received funding for two events: Pokaiks —The Children: Orange Shirt Day event and a public, traveling art exhibit on the theme of Truth and Reconciliation featuring adult Indigenous emerging and established artists.
Pokaiks – The Children: Orange Shirt Day is an annual event for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to come and walk together for a common issue and hold space for conversations. “Our 2021 event was very special last year,” says Founder and organizer Diana Frost. “As the world learned of the discovery of children in mass graves at different Residential Schools in what we call Canada. As an organization, we are determined to walk in honour of residential school survivors, and their families, to commemorate the children that we lost, not only on the day of our event, but every year going forward. We welcome everyone to join us in showing love, honour, and support for positive change for our beloved community.”
This event was also important for Elders, storytellers, performers, and artists who haven’t been able to share their stories, music, beadwork, and other craft work in public market spaces since the start of the pandemic. For many, their livelihood depends on being able to sell their crafts, share their stories, and music.
The public art exhibit features 18 pieces of Indigenous art that focus on Indigenous issues, healing, and Truth and Reconciliation. It first appeared at South Centre Mall, in Calgary. We are grateful to South Centre for helping in the design and funding of this exhibit. Each piece of art is accompanied with a “reconciliAction” offering inspiration to non-Indigenous people—actions they can take to promote healing and furthering the process of Truth and Reconciliation in Alberta and Canada. Funding has helped this exhibit to travel within Calgary and to surrounding areas. It has been on display at Glenmeadows School, Market Spot YYC, and is currently on display at Windsong Heights School (Airdrie). Mount Royal University will host the exhibit for September and October 2022, and The University of Lethbridge will host the exhibit next June 2023.
“This type of funding is critical,” says Diana. “There’s not a lot of funding available for arts events that’s dedicated to funding Indigenous artists and Elders. Especially funding that accommodates Indigenous protocol and understands that Indigenous ways aren’t the same as western ways.” Diana also believes that this type of funding is essential—community development through economic development—building relationships and opportunities to collaborate with non-Indigenous organizations, like the Calgary Board of Education and the Catholic School Board, and to create more opportunity for education and understanding among non-Indigenous folk about Indigenous issues, which is crucial to the process of Truth and Reconciliation and healing within Indigenous communities.