Audain professor makes history again with Witness Blanket

Law, Fine Arts

Witness Blanket. Photo credit: CMHR-Jessica Sigurdson.

A monumental art installation by Kwagiulth and Coast Salish artist Carey Newman, who is currently teaching at the University of Victoria, was today the centrepiece of an announcement by Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR) of a historically unique collaboration that unites Western legal principles with Indigenous ways of knowing and being. 

Written documents and an oral ceremony have been given equal weight in an agreement that vests legal rights with the Witness Blanket itself, as a living entity that honours the stories of the survivors of the residential schools, the CMHR noted in its release

Newman is the sixth Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest with UVic’s Department of Visual Arts. The agreement signed today covers the protection and use of the Witness Blanket, the powerful 12-metre-long artwork that was created and assembled from hundreds of objects and artifacts, evokes the atrocities of the residential school system, and sparks conversations and reflection on the national journey toward reconciliation. 

Rebecca Johnson, associate director of UVic’s Indigenous Law Research Unit, reviewed the agreement before it was finalized. The Faculty of Law at UVic plans to incorporate the agreement into its curriculum, which will help students explore creative avenues for drawing Indigenous and Canadian legal orders together. 

The Witness Blanket was presented for the first time at UVic in May 2014. It was unveiled in its entirety later that fall in Victoria’s City Hall, then brought on tour across Canada. 

The Witness Blanket includes a cedar plank from First Peoples House and a replica of a manual’s cover page from a 1987 UVic course. More details 

UVic is home to the world’s first law degree program to combine the intensive study of Canadian Common Law with Indigenous legal orders. More info 

Read CMHR news release

Read UVic release on Audain professor


A media kit is available on Dropbox with high-resolution photos made available by the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

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Media contacts

Carey Newman at

John Threlfall (Fine Arts Communications) at

Tara Sharpe (University Communications + Marketing) at

In this story

Keywords: Indigenous, art, fine arts, visual arts, Audain

People: Carey Newman, Rebecca Johnson

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