The Quilting Posse and Quilts for Survivors

Submitted by Gayl Rhicard

The Quilting Posse is a group of young-ish women who love to quilt.  We’re not your typical quilting circle.  No afternoon tea and scones for us, more like beer and pizza.  We are loud, loving, and caring.  We do what we love and love what we do.

The Posse members are modern-day do-gooders.  We try to meet on a haphazardly regular basis.  Like many, this past year and a half has been hard on our little group, but we persevered.  It helps that we keep each others’ spirits up with our boisterousness and our never-ending ideas.  It usually starts with one of us getting an idea.  We run with it and within an hour or two we have the quilt all mapped out.  What colours to use, the block designs, who’s doing what and by when.  Thank goodness for Messenger!

The Posse members are proud Canadians.  Flag waving on July 1st kind of proud.  So, when we heard about the heartbreaking news of the children’s bodies found at the Residential School out west, we were shocked.  Shocked and appalled like the rest of Canada.

Quilts for Survivors is a Facebook group created by Vanessa Génier in Timmins, Ontario in memory of all the small voices that were lost.  In June Vanessa started by asking for quilt blocks that she and her friends would sew into quilts to be given to Residential School survivors.  She had hoped to make 18 quilts, but once the word got out, the outpouring of donated blocks, tops, fabric, and completed quilts began.  To date over 630 quilts have been gifted to former Residential School “students”.  Young Native boys and girls who were stolen from their families and given no choice but to attend these hell holes.

One Posse member stumbled upon Vanessa’s Facebook post, and we immediately got involved.  Within weeks we had the blocks created, sewn together and off to get quilted by another talented member of our group.

Our quilt was gifted to Evelyn, who attended St-Paul’s Lebret Residential School, in the Qu’appelle Valley, from 1952 to 1962.  In Evelyn’s words, “It was a lonely place.  No visits from family. No love or hugs.  We were raised without love and no cultural guidance.  We were told our culture was demonic.  Or witchcraft.  We were told we would go to hell doing those demonic practices.  Our language was never taught, we were punished if we were caught speaking it.  When you lose your language, you lose all contact with the elders.  You no longer understand the history and the lessons the elders teach.  You need roles models to be a loving parent.  We did not have that guidance.”

Evelyn is from the White Bear First Nations, now living in Regina and is a retired schoolteacher.  After having put herself through university and graduating at forty years old, with four kids at home, she went on to teach elementary school for 25 years.  Evelyn described her quilt as a treasure and a truly healing quilt.

This is a lovely labour of love hoping this story will inspire other quilters to donate to a great cause to bring a small amount of comfort to those that truly need it.  In honour of residential school survivors and in memory of those who did not.



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