Every Child Matters Exhibition

Every Child Matters Exhibition to open at Sully Huff Heritage Center

By Tami Watt, Editor

In the wake of the 215 unmarked grave discovered at the Kamloops Residential School in BC, Canada local artist Hayden Haynes was inspired to carve earrings from deer antler to pay homage to the children that never made it home. 

Producing the earrings prompted a photo shoot in an effort to raise awareness about the Thomas Indian School, the Indian Boarding School on Seneca Territory that operated from 1855 to 1956 under the federal policy of forced assimilation and colonization efforts.  Haynes partnered with Jocelyn Jones on the shoot- having her modeling the earrings at one of the former Thomas Indian School structures.  Haynes wanted to be able to tell a slight portion of the history share information to those that are unaware.

After posting the photos to social media, multiple individuals across Turtle Island reached out to Haynes with ideas to spread the awareness more.  He started thinking further and initiated the traveling exhibition about the Thomas Indian School in hopes to continue to educate our community with history, visuals and art from Indigenous community members and academics. 

Haynes wants to tell our story from our perspective through Hodinöshö:ni academics and artists who are also community members and relatives of victims and survivors.  His main priority is educate our community with our voices to tell our own stories.  “This project was put together by the minds and hands of Hodinöshö:ni people so it’s a way to reclaim that narrative sovereignty- which they are fully capable of doing.  That’s why it’s important for the exhibition to travel so we can continue to perpetuate our own narratives, shares Haynes.”

The William Seneca Building and many Seneca Nation structures now occupy the former boarding school site on the Cattaraugus Territory.  The Seneca Nation Judicial branch currently occupies the former infirmary building.  Some structures are condemned but still standing around Seneca Nation facilities in Irving, NY. 

The Thomas Indian School. Courtesy of the Iroquois Genealogy Society.

Please visit the Iroquois Genealogy website for student rosters and more information on Seneca students in boarding schools:

Dr. Lori Quigley (Seneca), Dr. Alyssa Mt. Pleasant (Tuscarora), Dr. Rodney Haring (Seneca) and Dr. Randy John (Seneca) will contribute their academic and research skills as the writing team for the background and history of the Thomas Indian School text for the exhibition. 

Hodinöshö:ni’ artists Luann Redeye, Randi Spruce, Peter B. Jones, Samantha Jacobs, Faye Lone, Patrick Redeye and myself have produced artistic expressions to help tell our story as well.

Not only have academics and artists contributed but the Hodinöshoni community has fledged their full support as well.  Haynes would like to extend gratitude to Mike General, President Matthew Pagels, Treasurer Ricky Armstrong, Seneca Nation Council, Holly John and all the donations that have been received through the Go Fund Me campaign. 

The effects the “Kill the Indian, save the man” Indian Boarding School era still has lasting effects on our communities.  The historical and generational trauma has contributed to instability in families, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, suicide and sexual assault among.  Haynes hopes we can piece together some of the past and understand how to move forward, “We are resilient, we hope that people face their internal conflicts and feel the emotions through the text and artistic expressions, it can lead to a path of healing.  Facing an uncomfortable past is the first step to repairing our communities so we can move forward together.” 

The Every Child Matters exhibition about the Thomas Indian School is titled – “Hënödeyësdahgwah’geh Wa’öki’jö’ Ogwahsä’s.  Onëh i:’ jögwadögwea:je’.  We were at the school.  We were there.  We remember.” and will open at the Sully Huff Heritage Center on September 30th at 4pm and will be on display until October 15th.  There will also be a Remembrance and Healing walk at 6:30pm at the same location, please wear orange in support of the cause.

Resources and information will be available for community members to find information on former students and family members as well.

Exhibition OPENING Official flyer: