The Outside Circle – First Nations Themes & Visual Metaphors

November 2018 SubmissionsGE DIGITAL CAMERA

Ben – Outside Circle Art Explication

The entire drawing is divided into thirds that are meant to distinguish the post-reconciliation era of Canada (back third) from the colonial and assimilation eras (the front two thirds). The front 2 thirds of the drawing are meant to be dark and horrible, to emphasize the detrimental effects of the cultural genocide committed against First Nations people by the Canadian government. The old growth tree that has been chopped down is an analogy for how colonization, and the implementation of discriminatory policies by the Canadian government, have led to the destruction of many First Nations cultures and communities. The tree’s meaning is both metaphorical, and literal, because old growth trees have spiritual value to Coast Salish First Nations. The tree is also a totem pole because totems are used by First Nations to identify their family and I really wanted to demonstrate how postcolonial effects on communities like residential schools, drugs, and alcohol have destroyed thousands of FN families. The blood flowing from Pete’s arm when he gets the tattoo in the book inspired me to draw the roots as if they were bleeding.

I was really shocked by all of the horrific facts about the atrocities committed against FN people presented in the book’s info graphics, and I wanted to include some of them in my drawing. The designs on the stumps in the middle third of the drawing are meant to show the different policies–like the potlatch ban and mandatory residential schools–the Canadian Government used in the past to try and assimilate First Nations into European society, and destroy their cultures. The stumps are rotten and surrounded by flies to represent the horrific death caused by the small pox diseases, which was also a result of European colonization.

The back third of the scene is meant to be a sign of hope and reconciliation for the First Nation’s people. I chose the thunderbird (top left corner) because in NW FN cultures it is a symbol for power and carrying out law and protocol. It’s meant to show that even though all of these terrible things in the past have been detrimental to First Nations communities, (the front section of the drawing) the power of the law will now be used to bring the perpetrators of crimes of discrimination and hatred towards First Nations to justice. In the book, Joey’s mom was manipulated by law enforcement into giving up custody of her child. There is also an info graphic that shows how disproportionate the percentage First Nations people in the prison population is with the percentage of First Nations that make up the general population. I was really taken aback by how FN people are treated under the law, but knowing that there are people like the author of the story, who are working hard to help former convicts build a new life, made me very relieved. This is why I felt so strongly that the Thunderbird, a coast Salish symbol for law and order, needed to be a big and powerful focal point of this drawing.

The tree in the back with the totem pole is my family’s totem, and it showcases our fundamental values and beliefs. I put a beaver at the bottom of the tree because it is a symbol for harmony with nature, a strong sense of family values, determination, and hard work, which are all qualities that are the base of my family (which is why it’s at the bottom). The second symbol up is a salmon to show my family’s deep love and appreciation for wild and delicious food, as well as our persistence in pursuit of our goals,  which the salmon represents. Next to the salmon is a ski boot and a running shoe that represent my families love for sports and the outdoors. Fourthly, I have a globe of the world because everyone one in my family loves to travel to different places and meet new people. Last but not least, I have two hands embracing each other in the shape of a heart, which is meant to be a symbol of our respect for others as well as ourselves, which is perhaps our family’s most important virtue.

My family tree is in the back third of the drawing, surrounded by other trees, which are all different types. This is a metaphor for the country of Canada. I strongly believe that most citizens of Canada, not just First Nations, believe that the treatment of the First people by the Canadian government was cruel and unjust. The forest in the back is meant to represent how the people of Canada are taking notice of what has happened, and want to help the First Nations people recover, and rebuild a new forest.

The sun tucked behind the trees is radiating warm rays of healing energy and life down upon the the forest, representing the beginning of a new era of peace and prosperity for not just for the First Nations trees, but for all of trees in the forest, just like how reconciliation will unite and enrich the lives of all the diverse peoples and communities of Canada.



I have this mask on every time I step on a basketball court that means all I need to do is win the game no matter what. I don’t care who am I going against with, when I have it on. It means it’s killing time. The wolf represents being a great team player with leadership qualities that me has when I’m with the team and Pete has when his with Joey and his mom. The eyes is for having no fear at all, In all problems that me and Pete had we accept it and deal with it. We both didn’t run away from it. In the end my mask automatically comes on when I’m in a court or fighting for something that I really want and for the team. Same goes for Pete his mask always comes on when his doing something very bad or something for his family. Me and Pete will do anything for our family because it’s worth dying for.

Soyoung- The Outside Circle – The Masks We Wear

For my art I chose to draw a literal mask (instead of creating a physical mask) to represent my my values.

Eyebrows: First thing you might notice is the wonky eyebrows. These eyebrows represent my love for the water, hence the waviness. When I grow up, I want to live somewhere near a body of water. I grew up attending swimming lessons and now I work as a lifeguard, water makes me feel refreshed and some of my favourite memories of the summer is time spent lounging at lakes in Whistler.

Balance: I put the word balance because balance is my root word. Whenever I feel down, or  stressed out, or just having a hard time, I go back and remember what my brother said to me “There’s always has been a balance, and there always will be a balance in your life. You’ll experience lows but in the end, it will always even out, and you’ll feel fine, or heck even great. You’ll experience up and downs but always remember you can’t  stay low forever and you also can’t stay high forever.” In the Outside Circle, Pete’s life was mostly lows, he was struggling immensely, but he got through it all and now he’s doing good. He found his path. I chose the word to go with a yellow background because yellow represents optimism and happiness. I also bolded a few of the letters with green to represent growth; growth as in understanding that nothing lasts forever(balance).

Sun (behind Balance): I love the summer! I had an amazing summer this year, filled with unforgettable memories. I feel that this summer has made me more confident and opened me up. The orange surrounding the sun represents enthusiasm!

Wind symbol: The symbol in between the eyebrows represent wind. I added wind to my mask because my favourite sport wouldn’t exist without it, windsurfing! I’ve only windsurfed about 5 times, but I love it, especially when location your windsurfing at is beautiful.

Eyes: The the eyes represent Canada and Korea. Even though I grew up and lived my whole life in Canada, I hold Korea close to me. My parents immigrated to Canada from Korea just before I was born and the rest of my family lives in Asia. My parents raised me and my brother like we were in Korea; Korean dishes, Korean cutlery, Korean morals, etc. I am grateful that I grew up understanding and experiencing two very different cultures because it adds an interesting touch in my life. Pete’s culture was what helped him heal.

Fork and spoon: Represents my love for the foods. I love to eat and to cook. The process of creating a dish and putting it on a plate and eating it makes me very satisfied. I am not a picky eater at all; I want to try all the foods, from all around the world. I’m even interested in pursuing a future in the foods industry. My celebrity role model is Gordon Ramsay, who is a world star chef. One of the items in my bucket list is to dine at one of his restaurants in Europe!

Tree (nose): Tree is added to represent my love for the nature, especially in Whistler. Nature is a beautiful creation and I am so grateful to be living in an area where we are surrounded with postcard worthy nature. I also love the smell(nose) of nature and rain, it’s very refreshing.

Beaver: The Beaver is my first nations spirit animal. Like Pete’s animal(bear) I think that the Beaver represents me a lot. It’s like fate because I created a whole website dedicated to beavers once, and my friends say that my teeth look like a beaver (thats why its in my mouth). They say that the beaver has a great understanding of nature and works in harmony with his surroundings; I feel that relates to me as I am very ‘go with the flow’ type. The dark blue is added behind to beaver; dark blue is associated with calmness and seriousness. I think I have a serious side of me, it comes out when I’ve procrastinated too much.

Pink bordering face: I chose to add a pink ombre because pink represents friendship, affection, harmony, and inner peace. I want to work on portraying those traits.

Positivity: I always try and remain positive, even though it’s very difficult to do, your view on life alters drastically.

Gratitude: I am grateful for my life. I know there are many people in far worse situations than I am, like Pete and his family, and for that I am very lucky. I think being grateful is a very important trait, it teaches me to not take anything for granted.

Love: I love my family, my friends, and my home. Pete would do anything for his brother.



In The Outside Circle, one important theme is the theme of healing. After landing in jail for going into a blind rage and taking out his mother’s terrible boyfriend, Pete receives an opportunity to go on a mission of healing. Though obviously skeptical at first, throughout his healing journey it is evident that it works, and in good time Pete begins to heal. It takes lots of self-reflection, no matter how painful, battles with his inner demons, and heaps of perseverance, but Pete pulls through with only a few bumps along the way. By the end, Pete learns how to respect not only himself, but others, how to live a sustainable and healthy life, connect with his culture/heritage and how to protect his loved one’s the right way; by being a warrior on the outside circle.  Pete’s healing journey was successful, thanks to his strong efforts, and the caring support from those around him. But it was also only possible because he learned to heal through his culture, through First Nations Ways of Knowing and Being.

Totems – I chose to use 5 local First Nations totems to represent the support that many people going through their own healing journey receive, or would like to receive. As someone who has gone through a healing journey of their own, these totems, to me, also represent the important values and lessons that have influenced who I am today, and who I aspire to be one day. 1. Dragonfly -I chose to use the totem Dragonfly because it represents “a symbol of change, transformation, swiftness and a deeper meaning of life. He represents self-understanding and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity that comes only with age and experience.” I drew it appearing in the smoke from the smudge bowl, to represent the calm feeling experienced after being smudged.

Frog -The Frog “symbolizes cleansing, peace and rebirth.” I chose for the frog to carry the smudge bowl because “A Frog is a great communicator and often represents the common ground or voice of the people.” 3. Sun -The “SUN represents life’s abundance as its warmth radiates energy, healing and peace. Sun is known to provide the earth with healing energy and life. According to many Northwest Coast Legends, the Sun was released into the sky by Raven to provide light but also enlightenment. It is for this reason that the Sun also represents knowledge and understanding.”

Moon -The reason why I chose the moon was because the “Moon is a symbol of power and shows prestige. Full moons are credited with providing direction, vision, and guidance. The Moon has the ability to change our mood and thoughts.” 5. Salmon -The salmon was chosen because he “shows us instinct, persistence and determination.” These are values that are needed when going on you healing journey, and we can see Pete displaying these traits throughout his path.

Smudge bowl – the smudge bowl plays an important part in the story as it is used at the Healing Centre often. It is used to help calm and relax the agitated, tense and fearful minds of the brave men setting out on a journey of self-reflection, self-care and forgiveness. We can see that whenever Pete begins to get angry or afraid, he takes his mask out. But after Violet, an elder at the Healing Centre, smudges him, his body and mind seem to find peace and common sense. In the smoke coming from the smudge bowl there are Dragonflies, and the bowl itself is being carried on the back of Frog. Both reasons were explained in the paragraphs above. I used the smudge bowl to signify the calming and supportive hands of one’s culture and the people they care about. Healing journeys are hard to go alone, but most times with the help and support of others, they aren’t so lonely. As seen throughout Pete’s journey at the Healing Centre. Practicing his culture helped him find himself and learn who he is and this, along with his family’s support, he pulled through.

Smoke – The smoke coming from the smudge bowl has its own meaning. I wanted the smoke from the smudge bowl to seem warm and comforting. I drew it so that tendrils of it twist and curl around our unknown person, giving them hope and comfort.

Labels – The labels shown on the unknown figure are shown sticking out of the person’s back. What I wanted to represent, was the labels that are forcefully slapped onto people by others who only make assumptions. Most of the time, the people giving these labels will believe that they are harmless, but they really stick to those who get targeted. As someone who has had countless labels shoved onto me, I can confidently say that even though most of them are not true, you start to believe them. This can be seen in the story when Pete’s mother is forced to sign off Joey. She is told that this is the best way because there is no way that she can take care of him, and she believes that. The labels that are given to First Nations people around the world have existed for years and years, of course they would become the norm, of course people would start believing them.

Unknown Figure – I decided to draw a person, but to leave them blank and undefined. The reason for this, is because being forcefully labelled can happen to anyone from any cultural background. Another reason I left them blank, is because deep down inside, we’re all the same. No matter how different we are on the outside, deep down, we’re not so different after all.

Colourless (minimal colours) – The reason why I chose to leave this drawing colourless, with only black, grey and white, is because I wanted to make a representation of a human. Instead of giving this situation and person colour, I decided to leave it as labelless as possible. As I’ve mentioned before, many people, especially young people, go through this struggle and feel this pain on a daily basis. I believe that one one thing that connects us as people despite our differences, is pain. I wished to convey this universal emotion with the least amount of defining as possible.





Symbolic Drawing

For my symbolic drawing, I chose to do a drawing of the gaming computer that I built about a month ago. Gaming is very important because it’s the main way that I deal with stress in my life. When I am gaming my mind is solely focused on winning. I am not worried about school or social responsibilities. In my drawing I chose to represent everything in the computer by a representation of it in my life. For example the PSU also known as a power supply is what gives the pc its power or energy, so I drew something that personally gives me energy. For that instead of drawing a power supply I drew a room with some characters. This is supposed to show how I feel ambiverted, and gain energy only when I am alone or with a few friends.

The case that I drew the computer in is what contains then inner parts and components of the computer. For this I drew the case that my computer is in in real life. I feel that this is a good way of relating the drawing back to my personal life.

The SSD was next. SSD stands for solid state drive and it is a fast way of storing information. For this symbol I drew some books about engineering because it is my favorite school subject and it’s what I wish to pursue in the future. I drew this because I feel that they pertain to some of the information and knowledge that I find to be the most important.

After that I drew the motherboard. The motherboard is more or less the foundation of the computer, so for it drew a map of whistler to represent my foundation. To be more precise I chose to draw the neighborhood that I grew up in and still live in to this day.

The next symbol that I drew that the CPU. The CPU is kind of like the brain of the computer so for there I drew a representation of my brain. I drew it using a variety of colours to show whimsy. After that was the RAM. RAM stands for random access memory so I drew words on it that represented important memories to me and my childhood. I drew the different colours on the top because I associate these memories with a lot of different but positive emotions.

The next thing that I drew was the GPU. GPU stands for graphics processing unit, and it happens to be the most expensive part in the computer. For this representation I chose what is most valuable to me, which is family and my pet. I presented my making in into a photo album with them standing on top.

The fans were next. In a computer the fans are there to make sure that the computer doesn’t overheat. I represented this by choosing what keeps me cool or calm. For this I represented this with an album as music is usually what i use to stop myself from stressing out. The background I drew as a series of line to represent how I don’t like to have empty space or uncompleted projects in my life. I always like things to be finished rather than empty.

I believe that this relates to the story because in the story Pete’s family is very important to him as it is to me. He seemed to enjoy learning about his heritage and his ancestor as well as caring for his brother and mom. In the story he also seems to care a lot about where he grew up and where he came from. In my drawing I drew my neighborhood to represent my foundation of my childhood.




December 2017 Submissions

English 11 students studied the Graphic Novel The Outside Circle. The novel deals with the effects of Residential Schools and the multi-generational trickle down impacts of this government policy on First Nations peoples of today It also grapples with a number of other issues facing Aboriginal peoples today. The students then learned about various styles and imagery used by First Nations and Inuit peoples of Canada in both a historical and contemporary context. The students then created a “Visual Metaphor Response” along with an explication. The students then shared their Metaphors with their classmates. Some of the Visual Metaphors are below.

Molly Long 001

Molly Long

Hannah Farrow 001

Hannah Farrow
Loss is a recurring theme in the novel The Outside Circle. At the beginning of the story Pete
Carver is losing himself to gang affiliation. He’s changing into a man he’s not proud of,
neglecting his pregnant girlfriend out of fear of having that responsibility. Bernice Carver is living with addiction; she is losing those she loves, including herself. For Pete, not growing up with a father figure has led him to repeat the same mistakes. In my symbolic art piece I have drawn a tree to represent loss, but also to symbolize strength and love. The tree’s trunk and branches are made up of many lines, with each line represents a memory or experience that has brought my family closer together. Within those lines I have written a couple quotes of wisdom and truth that I thought resonated with me and the story. The first quote closest to the roots of the tree says: “Life is inherently risky, there is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing”. I chose to use this saying because Pete chooses to leave the gang and face the consequences and danger that follows. He grows the courage to see the child he abandoned, and to support them and stray from his father’s past actions. This takes strength and bravery, because he faces death as a risk of leaving the gang. Coming to the realization of leaving his child-bearing girlfriend takes strength to accept his mistake; even after Crystal rejects
Pete, this doesn’t discourage him from becoming a part of his daughter’s life, leaving him,
Crystal, and his daughter, Shayla, happy. As for me, I feel this connects to my life because my
parents chose to get a divorce very early on, and that was a risk. They didn’t know if that would
bring them peace or sadness. Despite the risk they took action, and now they’re both very happy
and content. I have recently lost my grandma and my grandpa to sickness and that was very hard on me and my dad. I was so worried that my dad would never come back from that state of
sadness. I would just always tell him that although they are gone there are still so many people
that love him and, despite all of the chaos, he should always try to see the light of the situation.
The second quote is something I came up with while I was painting the contrast of the leaves, I
wrote: “Life is like seasons, although death comes so will beauty and happiness, in time”. This
quote means that, despite everything, death and loss are inevitable, and that shouldn’t stop you from loving because in time you will always find happiness. When Pete goes to jail he thought all was lost for his brother and himself, and that warrior program saved him. He found his path and created a healthy life for him and his family. As for the leaves on the tree they symbolize the process of loss. From the left of the tree the leaves are alive and thriving–these represent the loved ones presently in my life. Towards the right the leaves contrast to dead falling leaves. All the way to the right there’s wind blowing the dead leaves away. This represents those who have passed, and relates to the novel because Pete loses a lot of his family throughout his entire life, even though he doesn’t start off with many family members. This means the people he does have are much more cherished. The wind carries passed loved ones away, when the wind stops new seeds are planted and new lives are created. For when the time comes those seeds thrive and create life and love. The cycle of life shouldn’t be something to mourn, and one should only look at each day as a new opportunity to be a better version of yourself.
Family in the novel is also a very important totem to the story. This ties closely to what I was
explaining earlier on. Pete will do anything to keep his family afloat in the harsh world he deals
with day-to-day. He even joins a gang to earn money and gain protection. Pete’s given a bear as
his spirit animal which just proves that he’s a protector and leader. I was given the deer as my
spirit animal, I chose to include it in my art because I felt that most of what the deer stood for
related a lot to me. The deer is described as being inspiring, lively and quick-witted. With great
humour, the deer has a tendency to get a laugh out of anyone. The deer is always aware of their
surroundings, and even more aware of their appearance, and the deer can be a bit self-involved. In a supportive environment the deer’s natural liveliness and sparkly personality radiate even more. I thought those things resonated with me the most. I chose to draw the deer with the Woodland style of art; I was inspired by Norval Morrisseau because his style closely connects me with my dad. My dad personally knew Norval. They both lived in Thunder Bay. Norval Morrisseau had given my dad one of his originals a while back. I’ve known his painting as long as I can remember. Even though I live in Whistler and don’t get to see my dad often, Norval’s art makes me feel close to him. That’s why I chose to incorporate Norval’s style into my piece. The deer, itself, is coloured with a range of beautiful contrasting colours. The shapes within the deer are fairly similar but the patterns and colours are different. As a whole it works together despite its differences, much like a family. I’ve made the deer connected to everything around it, to
heighten Morrisseau’s style in my piece.
The mask of rage and hatred Pete wears throughout the novel related strongly to me, especially how everyone is always protecting themselves from rejection and judgment. On the top of my piece I have drawn a face to represent me. The left side of the face is “perfect” and all “put together”— those are the expectations I put upon myself to try and meet. That side is flawless and happy, and not a care in the world with makeup and beauty. The other half shows the truth of it all; there’s worry and doubt in her eyes. This side isn’t careless but confined in herself. Connecting to The Outside Circle’s illustration I incorporated the shatter effect of the mask because I felt that helped deliver my message across. The mask Pete wears holds him back from his true self; until Pete discovers his true identity will he be happy. That’s why the warrior program helped him achieve that so well. That part in the story touched on how I feel a lot of the time. Having four younger brothers, I always try to keep my cool and stay low maintenance. I try to be as easy-going as possible so that I can avoid stressing my parents out when they have a lot on their plate. That can be hard, trying your best to be selfless to avoid conflict, and so that everyone around you can be happy. Now that’s fine to do; being easy-going is a good trait—until people start to step all over you and assume you won’t care. That’s when you have to stop and think: “Am I really happy with how I’m acting all the time?” That’s the most important part, being happy with yourself. Never change yourself so that you can be seen as someone else.
you’re sad or stressed.





Hanna Roy 001

Hanna Roy

G;enn Mackie 001

Angela Tangonan 001

Angela Tangonan –                                                                                                                                         Tree: The overall meaning of the tree is family, however there are many parts of the tree that are
intricate and shows my understanding of the story. The roots and the colourless soil defines my
knowledge and experience for it is the inauguration of my story, and it also can define Pete as a First
Nation kid—innocent and pure. As the tree grows, a colour is discovered. I choose blue for it is my
favorite colour, and as a kid, I mostly think about myself because my mind is still heavily laced with
immaturity. As the tree grows even further, it forms a huge round trunk and grows branches in random
directions and pose itself to expand. The sturdy trunk symbolizes myself as strong and impenetrable
due to the events I’ve experienced and benefited me during my personal growth. The bark “falling
off” the tree shows my changing phase and the people I’ve lost along the way. When the bark
transforms into a bird, it signifies my transformation during my growth and will soar throughout me.
The tree branches symbolizes my friends—whom I also consider family—who lifts me up during my
difficult times as Pete had his rehabilitation leader and mates who helps him get up from his past of
chaos. I apply different colours to each of the branches as to distinguish one friend from another.
When the tree’s growth constantly increases and peaks itself, leaves grow one by one, and eventually
forms a mature tree. The multicoloured leaves shows my current life—dynamic, exciting, and
colourful. It signifies Pete’s lifestyle as he grows into a mature man. The totem animals on the trunk is
my sister’s and mine’s totem birthday animal, the otter is my dad’s, and the wolf is my mom’s totem
Lines: The red lines drawn outside of the tree represents the monochromatic life of First Nations
during the times of the 60’s scoop, Indian Act, and many more laws implemented by the government
in order to ‘control’ the First Nations. The colour red shows the blood and rage from the First Nations
as they were forced to attend residential schools and endure abuse from the staff.
Smoke: The ‘smoke’ alongside the birds represents the ‘smudge’ process from The Outside Circle.
In the graphic novel, Pete’s rage was calmed when they started their smudge. In the art, the smudge
shows releasing my negative emotions, which enabled my growth to be a mature tree.
Sun: The sun wearing a necklace with a cross signifies my personal beliefs. It shows that without it, I
wouldn’t be able to grow as I am today. The sun greatly contributes to my personal growth as the
plant also depends on the sun to grow. The yellow flecks painted in all sides of the tree also shows
that the sun is connected to my friends, family, and the people I encounter with, and it’s also from the
sun that the tree wouldn’t be as colorful and dynamic if it weren’t for its warming rays that supplies
my growth. When the sun is blocked, the tree’s growth halts, and that’s the reason why the sun is an
essential part of my being. The same method also applies to Pete, when he was slowly discovering his
identity as a First Nation. Knowing his true identity transformed his entire life—from being drowned
in rage into a person enlightened with purity and kindness.





December 2017 Featured Artists


Fall 2016 (Featured artwork by Anders Ujejski)

English 11 students studied the Graphic Novel The Outside Circle which grapples with a number of issues facing Aboriginal people today. After reading the novel and participating in  a circle ceremony, with Tanina Williams, where students heard testimonials of stories on the effect of Residential Schools and the multi generational trickle down impacts of this government policy. The students then learned about imagery used by First Nations and Inuit peoples of Canada. They then had to prepare a “Visual Metaphor Response” along with an explication. The students then returned to the circle format and shared their Metaphors with their classmates. Some of the Visual Metaphors and Explications are below.






Strength: I decided to draw a tree because trees have always symbolized life, perhaps because they’re big and strong. This tree represents my family, each and every person.  New leaves growing, just like we are all growing and becoming new people. Leaves changing colours, just like people change over time. But we are a strong family, just like this maple tree, and we will always be connected to our roots, this relates back to the story “The Outside Circle” because as Pete changed over time he never forgot about his past, he was always connected to his past. As much as he wanted to forget his past instead he grew as a person to overcome his bad memories.


Culture: In my art piece I painted a maple tree. The roots of the tree represent the roots of my family, I painted the roots the colours of the German flag, because the roots of my family are German. The tree sprouts into a maple tree because as my family has grown we have expanded into Canadians, but our roots are still German. This example can relate to the book because at the start of the book Pete was going through a rough time,  the roots of his family weren’t very strong, but as the story moved on he connected with the First Nations culture and he grew a stronger bond with his family.


Family: The maple leaves falling represent each part of my family. I painted the leaves different colours to represent different members and components of my family. I painted one of the leaves green, because green is the colour of balance and safety. The red leaves represent strength and love. The orange leaf represents determination and happiness within my family. I painted a few leaves blue because blue symbolizes loyalty, faith, and trust. The colour blue is often associated with depth and stability. Specifically the blue leaves represent my Dad, I can trust him with anything and he is a very loyal person. The green leaf represents my Mom and my brother. My Mom balances out my family and my brother provides me with safety. Just like every family each person contributes for it to be a well rounded family, At the start of the book Pete’s family wasn’t very strong or connected, but towards the end of the book each member of his family filed a role to create a happy family.

If I was taken away from my culture I think I would miss the love from my friends and family the most. I love spending the holidays with my family and celebrating traditions together. Eating food together and enjoying each others company. Being active with my family is something that I would also miss very much!












Family was definitely a valuable part in The Outside Circle. Pete found it very difficult and hard to explain his drawing of the family tree, because he has no knowledge about his ancestors and relatives. I decided to incorporate a tree into my drawing because I feel like family if is a big part in my life. If i didn’t have a loving, caring family I would feel very miserable and alone. I am so blessed to have a kind-hearted family.

In my drawing I draw a tree in the bottom right corner with a bright green colour to show it’s a very healthy tree . I drew pink hearts surrounding the tree

Friends/community – In the novel Pete had a group of friends when he was recovering to help him. Friends was a key part in my drawing because in my life I feel as if my friends are more a part of my life than my family.

In a lots of my mini drawings there is some darkness and sadness to it. In the novel Pete went through some very depressing and life changing experiences that made him angry and heavy hearted. Like Pete’s, my life hasn’t been lollipops and rainbows, I have been through some pretty rough stuff that will stick with me till I die.

Surrounding the tree and pink hearts then slowly fade into broken red hearts. I put these around my family tree because I have gone through some rough patches with my family, I mean I am a teenage girl.

I also did the same with my “friend circle.” I have lost many friendships and had some terrible relationships with boys that have affected my in a very traumatic way. But I am very thankful I have let go of the toxic friendships and relationships that’s why I still have the happy faces surrounding the circle.

Deer – In first Nations my birthday animal is a deer. The deer is inspiring lively, quick-witted, a consummate conversationalist and has a great humor. The Deer has a tendency to get a laugh out of anyone. The deer’s bad qualities are the Deer can be selfish, moody, impatient, lazy, and two-faced. Not going to lie, but I can be like that sometimes.

In the middle of my drawing there is a deer to symbolize me. I decided to make it straight in the middle because this art piece is supposed to focus on me.

Lighting/rain clouds – A big part in the graphic novel was how Pete would rage out in anger and blow up. Many things have happened in my life to cause me to have anger and sadness, so that’s why I added raindrops and lightning. The raindrops can also represent circles, like the outer circle.




Haruno (International Student)

This mask expresses differences of my feelings between when I’m riding on a snowboard with my favorite friends and when I’m in the space where I don’t have friends. The right face is expressing me snowboarding and the left face is about me being shy.

A crystal of snow on my forehead is expressing snowboarding. The right face is colored by warm and light color and made up. This means I’m not shy and cheerful when I’m snowboarding. For example, when I’m enjoying snowboarding with my friends, I can be positive and challenge some new trick or try new things. Especially when I participate in competitions, I become aggressive because I want to win the games. On the right face, there’re also the crystals of snow on my foreface. Red, orange, pink and beige snow expresses my passion for snowboarding and pink eye shadows, cheeks, and rip means my love for snowboarding.

On the other hand, dark and cold colors is used on the left face. The sweat on my face means that I’m shy. This expresses I’m not good at talking with people who I don’t know or people speak English well. I don’t have self-confidence with my English so I become shy and can’t express myself well. Black skin means that I can’t express myself and being shy, the universe in my eye means that I’m thinking about too many things like my English might not be understood or I’m a little panic when people talk to me and I can’t understand what they’re saying. So the skin under my eye is dark and expresses that I confuse. Even to Japanese, I sometimes cannot express myself enough. The left face doesn’t made up because me being shy is a real character inside me. Black means worry about being shy and blue means impatience and can’t express myself.








I decided that the main image in my drawing would be a raven. I chose this because of the story in which he steals the sun. The sun being stolen represented the beating in prison, where his ‘light’ was stolen. The beating in prison was a turning point where he had an opportunity to escape his selfishness, and become selfless. It doesn’t say that this happens to the old man in the story of the raven, but his most prized possession was stolen and it is what I think the story would lead to.

The background is very dark, while the foreground is bright and colourful. The dark background represents how he had a dark past that was full of gang violence, stealing, and poverty. The foreground represents the opportunity that he has been given after his prison time, with his new job and his girlfriend giving him another chance.

The setting (oceanfront) is the image that comes to mind when I think of first untouched first nations culture. The reason the first nations have such a rough life is because of white people coming over and destroying their culture with residential schools. At the end of the story, he finds his culture, which is why I chose the ocean setting.

I have had many memorable moments in my life which involved family. They include: flying to Edmonton to visit grandparents, making dinner for my little brother when my parents aren’t home, and skiing with my mom while she is at work.

The biggest thing involving family that I would miss if I had been taken away to residential schools was knowing that there was always somebody who cared, regardless of what I did. This is a feeling that is indescribable to somebody who hasn’t experienced it.


Luke U

Systems of belief: In “The Outside Circle” Pete has grown up fending for himself. He has learned to live completely separate from his native culture, the traditional values and practices which he was never taught. As he participates in the Wounded Warrior Program, he learns more about himself, his family, and the beliefs of his people. His life is slowly changed and enriched. In my piece, the tree represents my life, and it is in the shape of a cross because as a Christian my life is defined by my beliefs. They are not part of my life in the same way as other elements, such as the bear or the turtle. My beliefs and what I know to be true are my life; they encompass it and build it up. In the same way. The cross isn’t inside the tree, it is the tree. The tree is outlined in green, symbolizing growth and life, as my faith gives me life and causes me to grow as a person.


Family: “The Outside Circle” has a very strong theme of family, and how Pete’s life is changed, redirected by his newly discovered heritage. He is tracked down by his mother’s long-lost brother, his uncle, and told about relatives he never knew. Pete is told of his family’s past struggles and blessings, and this knowledge, this idea that he could belong somewhere, builds him up and strengthens him. In my art, both the bear and the turtle represent my family and friends. The wolf represents myself, as it is my totem animal based on my month of birth. The wolf is positioned at the top of the tree, and the other elements of the picture support it, and hold it where it is, symbolizing how I could not be where I am or who I am today without the people around me.


The turtle symbolizes my friends, though I should really call them family, at my summer camp(I chose a turtle because they are everywhere there).These people have and continue to build me up and support me, so the turtle is at the base of the tree, at its roots. These people and that place provides me with so much strength, both emotionally spiritually, yet it’s far away, geographically, so in my picture the turtle is farthest from the wolf.


The bear is meant to represent my family and friends here in Whistler(it’s probably obvious why I chose a bear). These people, mainly my family, also have played a key role in the development of my life I’ve been supported all my life by the people immediately around my, so in the picture, the bear makes up the trunk of the tree, symbolically taking on most of the weight of my life. The bear is also positioned directly under the wolf, showing how my friends and family in Whistler are closest to me, and have supported me all my life.


Shattering masks: Another strong theme in “The Outside Circle” is the idea of masks, and how we all wear different faces to hide who we truly are. For his whole life, Pete is shown to have worn a mask of anger and resentment. This mask appears in the novel scenes where these emotions come into play, such as when he kills his abusive stepfather, or when he stabs a man in prison. For Pete, this mask is slowly broken down and removed as he learns about his family, and receives support from people who genuinely care about him. This theme is represented in my art by the tree breaking through the ground and spreading. The dark ground, infused with bits of lighter colour, represents my life, both outwardly and spiritually, in the last couple years. I have been restricted, almost,, trying to maintain my mask of “fitting in”. During this time, I still grew spiritually and as a person, hence the colour in the dirt, and my years at camp also occurred while I was “going through the motions”, which is why the turtle and the base of the tree are both underground. The breaking of the dirt represents a change, a turning point where I began to be aware of the masks that I was wearing, and was able to shatter the ones that were doing me harm. This is symbolized by the jagged, broken dirt and the tree spreading out and becoming greener from there.



Marie (International Student)

The outside circle – Mask about myself  My mask represents the two sides of myself. If I had to give a name of each part, that would probably be «  remember » for the left side and « live your life » for the right side.

On the right side, it’s the part of me in Canada. This part is bigger than the left side because I’m living in Canada at the moment, I’m here for one year : I’m physically in Canada. On the other hand, I represented the flag of Belgium with a thought bubble because my mind stays sometimes in Belgium. It’s my country where I grew up in during 18 years, with my family and my friends. Today, they are continuing their lives in Belgium while I’m here to discover a new country and living with a new family as well as new friends. I’m so happy to be in Canada, I’m living an unique experience and I’m very lucky; I’m realizing it. But sometimes, when I think of my best friends, my sisters, my parents, etc : it’s got me homesick for Belgium.


I also drew two different eyes. One real on the part of Canada because I’m in Canada, I’m living in Canada and the other eye is empty because it represents the part of me that thought about Belgium. It’s only my thoughts, I’m not physically in Belgium so that’s why this eye is white and empty.


All words around the mask are the first ideas that come to mind when I’m thinking about Belgium and Canada. The words about Belgium are situated inside the left part and those about Canada are in the right part.






Philip (International Student)

This mask symbolizes my character, my experiences and how they shaped made and made me who I am. I have chosen an animal to represent my character traits. Colures imply how I feel most of the time and evince what I have experienced in my life.

The mask is a assembled with a black, drinking Labrador dog. The Labrador is drinking water. The water is light blue on the left side and dark blue on the other. There is a specific reason behind this which I will clarify later.

Starting with the dog, I have chosen a Labrador Retriever specifically because this breed matches my character traits as no other kind of dog breed. Labradors are even tempered, agile, kind, trusting, outgoing, gentle and intelligent (

As a Labrador, I love to run and get exercise every day. I also try to see good things in every person and hope that I can trust them and what they say. Which is not always a good thing. Not hurting others with what I do or say is very important for me as well. You could consider my effort of seeking more and more knowledge and my approach understanding new information and impressions rationally as intelligent.

For my mask I mainly used the colors black and blue. But you definitely have to differentiate between the light and the dark blue. I used dark blue for the dog’s face shadow but also because dark blue has another meaning as light blue. Light blue is associated with health, healing, tranquility, understanding, and softness. Whereas dark blue represents knowledge, power, integrity, and seriousness (

The drinking dog should underline my thirst for more knowledge. Therefore I can be very serious about some topics which interest me. Being health conscious, light blue matches perfect with my interests




Shou (International Student)

The Mask is expressing to inside personality of human. Mostly people have two personality in inside of them self. Why this mask is using just black and white, that reason is able to make associate that two corals with intellect, reset and suppression. Also there corals has other mean. That is not exactly expressing to character coral well. (ex. red, blue, yellow, green, etc.) That mask’s half of white space is expressing about good men. And other black space is expressing to about bad men. And that bear is expressing to human characteristic. Also the bear is expressing human characteristic. The usually bear is conservative character, but if someone asked some incentive to bear, that character is sift to violent character.  And that center line is expressing borderline of that two characters in mental. And that line is expressing Tow side of the same coin about between good things and bad things. Black men and white men is almost same things, for example if some parents punch to kids. Someone said “abuse”, but someone said “that is teaching”. Any situation can separate to good things and bad things, but that classify change to by point of view of anybody. So that line is not actual separate to side between good things and bad things.



Luke S




My totem animal is the snake which I don’t really connect to, but still watches over me in the sky. I relate more to the bear which is emblematic of grounding forces and strength like Pete at the end of the story. In the bear are whistler mountains representing my hometown and my connection to Whistler because I prefer to stay in one place. I chose a darker setting because most of Pete’s life he was in the dark not knowing his path or future. The darkness also represents that I like to stay up later and that I’m not a morning person. The part of the story I most resonate with is when Pete’’s mask shatters and he changes his future. This resonates with me because I feel like I have changed a lot recently and changed my future for the better.  

Memories that I would’ve not had if I was taken away to residential schools.

1: Teaching my sister and mother to ride a skateboard.

2: Traveling with my family to Europe.

3: Skiing and snowboarding with my family.

4: Always eating breakfast and dinner with my family.

 Elements of my culture I would miss if I was taken away. I would really miss all my favorite foods like Maple syrup, pancakes, Kraft dinner, grilled cheese, and poutine. These are just some of my favorite food that you can get here in Canada and I would be pretty sad to lose them. Canada also has very unique agriculture like our mountains which i love and i would really miss seeing them and snowboarding down them. I would really miss our polite society because Canadians are very tolerant, polite, and extremely conservative. The languages we speak in Canada are very diverse and I would miss learning and hearing all the different languages.


Matt G

In my picture I have two wolves one that is angry and one that isn’t, these two wolves represent the masks that Pete wears throughout his life. I chose to represent Pete with wolves because I feel that he is a lone wolf when he is sent to prison but then he is united with a “pack of wolves” (his brother and uncle) when he is released. The mountains in the background are representing my love of biking, skiing, and being outside having fun. I made the picture look like it was taken at night because I go to bed later than most people and I enjoy being out late at night. The dark sky also represents Pete’s dark past, and the lights represent his brighter future.

 Memories that I would have not had if I had been sent to residential schools. dad teaching me to ride a bike.

2.skiing with my family

3.mountain biking with my family

4.travelling to Whistler with my family to mountain bike.

 Elements of my culture I would miss would be the food such as poutine, maple syrup, kraft dinner, grilled cheese. These are some of my favorite foods that are common in Canada. I would also miss the mountains and biking/skiing because biking is a large part of my life and so is skiing. I would miss the freedom we have here, also the cannabis culture would be greatly missed. I would miss how polite people are here.


Spring 2016




The Outside of the Circle Symbolic Piece –

  1. The small baby hand is representative of innocence, First Nations, and childhood. The small baby and also points towards first Nations culture showing is dependence on the first Nations way of life.
  2. The large white hand is symbolic of Canada and the government in its attempts to “kill the Indian in the child” along with first Nations culture and beliefs. The white hand is grabbing and attacking the first nation’s culture. Is about to grab onto the child and drag it off to residential schools. This is symbolic of not only children being taken off to residential schools but also the 60s scoop.
  3. The divide between colour and detail below the hand is symbolic of first Nations culture and beliefs as the hand comes down and there is the white space above the hand that whitespace symbolizes the destruction the taking away and the absence of first Nations culture and people in Canada’s overall society. This blank space is representative of the successfulness of the plan to “kill the Indian in the child.”
  4. The dream catcher is symbolic of the inability to forget and destroy memories and dreams of residential schools. It is symbolic of how this system still has an enormous effect on today’s First Nations Society. The purpose of the Dreamcatcher is actually to capture bad dreams which would be destroyed at dawn. So this is symbolic of the fact that these dreams and memories would never be destroyed as the dawn never comes, there is no cure for the past, there is no way to forget. The Dreamcatcher symbolizes that memories and dreams or nightmares of residential schools which cannot be forgotten, they are trapped by the effect they had on people’s lives for generations. Even if people do try and repair these damages nothing can ever be fixed, like we couldn’t force dawn to come.
  5. The black background on the the the bottom side of the hand is symbolic of all the lives lost both throughout the time of residential schools and recently. The about equal quantity of black background and colour filled design is representative of those whose lives remained no matter how tortured and those who died.
  6. The deer, the beaver and the owl are all symbols towards family, togetherness and people’s reliance on family and friends. These beneficial relationships is the only true reason that people have for living. It is symbolic of the need, the dependence and the requirement of people on their families. Due to residential schools this family bond was destroyed and broken overtime by generations of mistreatment in residential schools. Which did not teach people how to properly raise children or treat other human beings. People who attended the residential schools were so mistreated from such a young age that when they had children they didn’t know how to raise them and these children went through similar things and this would just continue because there was no knowledge, no education, and no telling of wrongdoing; there was no teaching by example. These three specific symbols are representative of family and that each one of these is the symbol for a member of my family.
    1. The deer is my birth symbol.
    2. The owl is my father’s birth symbol.
    3. The beaver is the symbol of both my mother and my brother. Because it is the symbol for two important people, it is larger than both of the others.
  7. The three circles on the the bottom right corner of the page are symbolic of stepping stones. The three circles or stones fall in a path, this path or stepping stone path is symbolic of the road and the journey it takes for people to try and attempt to overcome residential schools affects. Each specific stone or circle contains I specific drawing which has its own symbolism.
    1. The top stone is a sun which in first nation culture represents the sun’s ability to provide healing power and life to earth. Both of which are necessary in overcoming residential schools. The sun which was said to have been released into the sky by Raven was meant to provide light and also enlightenment. Light and enlightenment are both necessary in seeing and following the path (stepping stone path) in overcoming residential schools. Enlightenment is necessary so that people understand the secret of residential schools so that they do not happen again in the future.
    2. The middle circle is representative of the moon. The moon is likely the most important step in the stepping stone path. The moon is said to provide light in the darkness of the night, be the guardian of the earth, and protector of humans. It is a symbol of power and prestige. And when full, as this one is, can provide direction vision and guidance. It also has the ability to change moods and thoughts. This is symbolic in my piece as the moon is providing a change of thought as well as the gift of power in order to safely direct guide and to give vision on a path to bettering one’s mood thought and overall wellbeing in attempting and accomplishing the stepping stone path to overcoming residential schools impact on first nation lives and the lives of the nation as a whole.
    3. The third and final circle or stone is the salmon which is symbolic of instinct, persistence and a determination. All these qualities are necessary in overcoming horrors faced by First Nations people throughout history as well as in today’s society. The salmon is also a symbol of abundance wealth and prosperity which is an aspect of the end goal of the path in overcoming residential schools.
  8. The frame around the picture is representative of the box they forced First Nations into. The government legally destroyed the First Nation’s culture and forced the people who were still living to fit into this very specific box of what was to be expected by them. At`\tempting to incorporate them into society. Without treating them properly or giving them any chance of surviving in an environment(Canada’s overall society) unlike their own.






Symbolism of My Life  

Tree – The tree is the focal point of the because it represents me. It shows how everyone around me has affected and influenced my life. The tree doesn’t end because it shows that I am still growing and learning about the world.

 Rain – The raindrops represent the friends that I cherish. Like water helping the tree grow, my friends help me grow as a person and have greatly impacted my life. I learn a lot from my friends and I consider them very important in my life.

 Leaves – The leaves represent my family that surrounds me. The brown leaves represent the family members that have passed. They help me when I am in need and teach me anything that I need to know. My family has guided me throughout my life and have taught me much of what I know today.





My picture I drew represents my direct family of First Nation heritage, I drew it because I care a lot about my family and my identity but it makes it a lot better that I am in fact of Aboriginal descent so this project meant a lot more. My drawing shows the different generations of my known aboriginal family, each animal in the picture represents a family member’s spirit animal.

The otter is my nana, Anne Brier, she had Indian status and was a part of the Peguis tribe. The otter is on top of everything else to represent the passing of my great grandmother and how she is in Heaven now, watching over the rest of us. The otter is coloured in pink because that was my nana’s favourite colour.

The serpent is my grandma, Catherine Sperling. Her spirit animal surrounds everything within to represent that she kept us all together, she’s always there for everyone, keeping us safe and happy. The serpent is coloured green because that’s my grandma’s favourite colour. (despite her love of white!)

The feathers are my mom, Virginia-Rae Quinnell, because her spirit animal is the hawk. The feathers were placed on each side of my spirit animal to represent that even within Grandma’s barrier, Mom still protects me in her own embrace. The hawk feathers are coloured teal because that is my mom’s favourite colour.

The salmon is me, Paris Summers. I am in the middle to represent that I had a big impact on my family’s lives, I’m not saying that selfishly. My family has cared so much about me and my nana, through dementia, never forgot who I was. I was a joy to her and I miss her everyday. I gave meaning to my mother’s life, although it was hard for a young mom like her, she is proud of who I’ve become. Grandma loves to hear how I’ve been is always excited when I come to visit. The salmon is coloured blue because that is my favourite colour.

The flag in the middle, is the Peguis flag. That is the tribe my nana was a part of, Peguis First Nation is the largest First Nation community in Manitoba, with a population of approximately 10,000 people of Ojibway and Cree descent. The tribe is located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I included the Peguis flag to represent our connection to First Nation heritage.

The red colours on the outside of the serpent represent family and protection; the orange colour within my grandma’s embrace is to represent happiness because orange is a happy colour!




Totem Pole – The Totem pole is representing my family at the bottom is my dad who is represented by the owl because he’s old and wise. 2nd from the bottom is my mum who is the hawk because she is natural born leader, and also because she sits at her desk at the back of the mpr and dives on people that need to do their work the second they enter the room (haha). After my parents is me, the oldest sibling, I represent myself as a bear because I would say I’m pretty courageous, and I can be very independent, I enjoy having time to myself and I would say I can be pretty distant a lot of the time. Lara is just above me as the butterfly because she will always have room for growth, and has a slight grace to everything she does. Last, but not least, is Amber who I used the deer, as she has a strong intuition, and has mastered how to be gentle, but also determined to get what she wants. My totem is stacked from oldest to youngest as we hold each other on our shoulders the younger we get, it’s almost like the circle thing in the book with my father, and mother on the outside and my sisters, and me on the inside (or top of the totem pole).

The Flags – The British flag on the right hand side is representing British as my past or my family history, and where I was born, but the Canadian flag on the left shows the present and where I am now.

Background – Behind the flags I have a gradual background from right to left, behind the British flag is plain, and grey because I don’t have many memories from that young and what memories I do have are bland, the mountains and sky on that side are also very plain. All of the right side represents the past and how I thought of everything in black and white when I was young. Behind the Canadian flag is filled with colour, and nature because I have lived here for 10+ years now and have real, vivid memories of thing that have happened, and things I have seen while out here. As I grow older my memories become more in colour, and that’s why it slowly fades from grey to extreme colours. The sky is very colourful, on the left side of my drawing, and there is also life up the mountains instead of just plain rocky mountains.












 The Owl and the Sun: The owl represents in Northwest Coast First Nations culture the keeper of sacred knowledge and the sun represents enlightenment. The owl is flying towards the sun to represent that Pete could not find out who he truly is without the knowledge of his culture.

 The Serpent: The serpent represents healers and spiritual leaders. The reason the serpent’s biting its’ tail is because healing and helping people is an endless chain of kindness. It’s far away and circling the sun because finding leaders and people who can heal can be hard at times and allowing people to help can be even harder but once you allow it to happen your life becomes a little brighter.

 The Waves: The waves represents the members of Pete family. The three waves are his brother, mother, and uncle. I made his family members waves because waves mold rocks into smooth stone much like family molds people into who they are, I also added colour because I believe family brings colour to our lives.

 The Whale: The whale is a symbol of kindness and compassion. The whale is also known to help people. The pair of eyes on the side of the whale represents the people who are watching over Pete and helping him to better his life like Violet and Jim who helped him through the warrior program.



 The Owl and the Sun: It’s theme is culture and identity because those two things go hand in hand and Pete, again, would truly not know who he is without knowledge of his culture.

  The Serpent: It’s theme is bravery and leadership because it’s scary to ask others for help and the serpent, itself, represents leaders.

 The Waves: The waves represents family and character because I believe that family is what shapes our character and smooths our personality and without them we would turn out rough and jagged.

 The Whale: The whale’s theme is healing. It represents healing and people brought healing to Pete’s life.

December 2017 Submissions

English 11 students studied the Graphic Novel The Outside Circle . The novel deals with the effects of Residential Schools and the multi generational trickle down impacts of this government policy on First Nations peoples of today It also grapples with a number of other issues facing Aboriginal peoples today. The students then learned about various styles and imagery used by First Nations and Inuit peoples of Canada in both a historical and contemporary context. The students then created a “Visual Metaphor Response” along with an explication. The students then shared their Metaphors with their classmates. Some of the Visual Metaphors are below.