Trails of Hope & Light

Victor Bear & Iris Nicholas with the beautiful Trails of Hope & Light Wampum Belt at Mah Sos School

Victor Bear & Iris Nicholas with the beautiful Trails of Hope & Light Wampum Belt at Mah Sos School

As I entered the foyer of Mah Sos School last week I was immediately drawn to the visually stunning display of the Trails of Hope and Light Wampum Belt.
 
This amazing work is the result of a group project created and handmade by Residential School survivors.
 

Wampum are traditional shell beads that were made and used by eastern indigenous peoples. The weaving of wampum belts was a way to encode messages. By using strands of coloured beads strung in various designs, the beads could be read by anyone who knew the wampum language, no matter what their spoken language was.
 

Wampum was used for telling stories. Since there was no written language, wampum was a very important means of keeping records and passing down stories to the following generations.
 

Wampum was also used to declare war, request a treaty, propose marriage or be presented as a gift.
 

The Trail of Hope and Light wampum belt is made from polished wooden pieces that are each individually painted with symbols, messages and scenes that were then laid down on a custom crafted art stand.
 

The belt tells the story of the Residential School Survivors, and it is a journey that begins in darkness. You can see the pieces at the bottom of the image, broken and crying.
 

The story progresses, sometimes lighter, sometimes darker…to tell the tales of the lives of the children who were torn from their families in an appalling act of cultural genocide that went on for over 100 years.
 

This historic work of art will eventually be on permanent display at UNB in Fredericton.

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