Chataya Holy Singer is a Bachelor of Fine Arts student at ULethbridge, majoring in the Art Studio program. An interdisciplinary Blackfoot artist, Holy Singer has rooted her work in the Niitsitapiisini— the Blackfoot way of life.
As part of Lethbridge's 2021 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation programming, the University partnered with the City of Lethbridge to unveil Chataya's t-shirt design. The design features First Nation, Métis and Inuit symbolism and can be interpreted in various ways with each symbol conveying its own message. Chataya says the overall significance of the design weaves the educational journey for Blackfoot students and resiliency through the past, present and future.
“Education is our new buffalo – our new resource for survival. We can learn from our past, to understand our present in order to guide the future as we continue to dismantle previous teachings that were put in place to remove our identity.” ~ Chataya Holy Singer
“With our education, we can continue to remove these teachings by replacing them with the knowledge inherently passed down from our ancestors and implementing them into our current systems.”
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is the same day as orange shirt day, an event that grew from Phyllis Webstad and her story. When she arrived at St. Joseph Mission residential school at the age of six, Phyllis had the her orange shirt she arrived in taken from her. Her story created an opportunity for discussion on the aspects and experiences of the residential school legacy.
For Chataya, the invitation to create ULethbridge’s orange shirt day design was special and personal. She previously designed the orange shirts for the City of Lethbridge and the Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee.
“I knew that I was going to come up with a design that contributes to the perspective of what it means to be an Indigenous student in post-secondary. I personally know the impacts that residential schools have within my own family and even myself.”
Many Indigenous communities have spent years in mournful reflection with the discovery of unmarked graves at former Indian residential school sites across North America.
“For me, the unmarked grave discoveries brought up memories of what my mom had told me about her experiences in residential schools. These recoveries triggered a lot of sadness and anger that I felt for not only my late mother, but for our people who had suffered the worst from this act of genocide.”
“These children were our relatives. They were our ancestors whose stories were never told and are now being let free where they can finally come home.”