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Search for remains of relative leads activist to auction Indigenous artwork for charity

Anishinaabe volunteer organizes Full Circle Auction and donates all proceeds to Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association
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After the success of the first Full Circle Auction – which opened on June 27 and concluded on July 11 – organizer Ozhawa Anung Kwe is planning for more in the fall. The auction sold paintings by various Indigenous artists and donated all its proceeds to the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association.

The auction was held in response to the 215 children found buried in the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C.

Ozhawa Anung Kwe and their team raised over $10,000 in bids for artwork and an additional $3,000 from non-auctioned painting sales and from a pay-what-you-can workshop.

They are an advocate for Anishinaabe and 2SLGBTQ+ people.

The CSAA holds a bi-annual Residential School Student Survivor Gathering, in which Ozhawa Anung Kwe used to volunteer when they were in high school.

“I’ve always done my best to volunteer, present/speak at, or simply attend these gatherings. They would also be a place of affirmation when it came to being Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+,” reads their testimonial in the Facebook group.

“Some family members would tell me stories of the Two-Spirit children who also attended these schools.”

By the age of 24, Oshawa Anung Kwe told SooToday that they discovered that their grandmother was sent to a residential school in her youth “along with her brother Morris and sister Laura.”

“Laura died while at the school of Tuberculosis,” they said.

“In June 2021, I started to ask where my aunty Laura was buried. I thought maybe she passed at St. Joseph Residential School for girls in Spanish, Ont. Or if my relatives got her remains sent home. But neither idea was the correct one. 

“With some research by a friend at the Shingwauk Archives at Algoma University, we found out that she passed away at Queen Alexandra Sanitarium in London, Ont. This was common practice for some cases of TB patients at the time. 

“Another friend found her burial spot in a cemetery in London, Ont. He discovered this by cross-referencing information with the death records at the London Public Library and the information I had from the Shingwauk Archives. 

“My family was lucky because many families don't have any records, or lack of information to locate their missing family members, who were forced to go to Residential Schools.”

Oshawa Anung Kwe chose to hold an auction as a means to raise funds “because I thought this would be a great way to give back to Residential School Survivors and for community to engage with something fun, while we collectively grieved for all the children that were being found buried across Canada.

“I also had an abundance of paintings from the month of June that were taking over my apartment.”

Oshawa Anung Kwe said they did a “very quick planning” for the first auction. 

“I spoke to an artist friend, Rihkee Strapp, about my idea and they offered to donate some prints to be included in the auction. I… began asking other Indigenous artists within my network,” they said. 

“The featured artists included Rihkee Strapp, Patrick Hunter, Chief Lady Bird, Kent Monkman and Intergalactic Enby. Several local artists were featured as ‘rush item’ contributors.”

In administering the auctioning of these paintings, they worked with three other volunteers. 

They are currently working on holding more auctions.

“I'm discussing the matter with two local agencies to do a future auction in October and/or November. I need to see if they will have the capacity to provide donation receipts for winning bidders."