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Quilt created to provide education about human rights

THUNDER BAY -- Drawing on their collective paths, a group of transplanted First Nation elders set out to teach the younger generation about human rights, using a quilt as their canvas.
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A group of First Nations elders contributed to the Human Rights Quilt, designed to educate Aboriginal people about their rights and how to ensure they’re not abused. It’s on display at the Baggage Arts Building until Feb. 22. (Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com)

THUNDER BAY -- Drawing on their collective paths, a group of transplanted First Nation elders set out to teach the younger generation about human rights, using a quilt as their canvas.

Unveiled earlier this week, their work will be on display at the Baggage Building Arts Centre at Marina Park through Feb. 22.

Sara Beardy, initially brought on board to provide translation service, said too often First Nations people don’t realize when they’re rights are being trampled upon, or if they do, where to turn to in order to right the wrong.

“We have to explain to them they have the right to hospital services, they have the right to go shopping and go on a bus without being hassled. They have a right to be safe in this community. They have to understand there’s legislation to help them to have their rights,” Beardy said.

“Everybody has rights to be a human being. You don’t need a piece of paper to tell you how to treat other people.”

The images on the quilt teach about violence against Aboriginal women, safety, housing and income maintenance.

Organizer Cathy Spence said the quilt was a learning experience for the 22 elders who took part in the project.

Squares were sent out to participants, who represented several First Nation communities throughout Northwestern Ontario.

“This was the first time for some of them to voice out their stories,” Spence said on Thursday, just before unveiling the quilt for public viewing.

“It was such a positive experience for everyone, I think from doing this and the joy of making the quilt and sharing the stories.”

The colours of the quilt were carefully chosen.

“We chose the colour purple because purple represents healing. It’s a power colour that represents strength and knowledge,” said Michelle Richmond-Saravia, access to justice co-ordinator who helped spearhead the project.

“We have blue in the quilt … and it also represents healing and water.”

The quilt also pays tribute to an elder named Nora, who participated in the quilt-making, but died before it was completed.

Elder Sara Sabourin also created a quilt square, and said it brought back fond memories.

“It reminded me of my grandmothers, who a long time ago made quilts,” she said.

Once the Fill a Bowl, Fill a Need Pottery and Quilt Exhibition comes to an end, the human rights quilt will be moved to the Indian Friendship Centre, its permanent home.