Students at Ste. Anne Elementary and at the Collegiate participated in various activities during the past couple of weeks as they learned about the history of residential schools.
Each year, September 30 marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as well as Orange Shirt Day. This day honours the children who never returned home and survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities.
While some students painted orange rocks with different messages such as “Every Child Matters” and then hid the special rocks throughout the community, other students spent time making feathers.
“They have been drawing feathers to put around the school,” says Anna Dyck, Community Liaison Support Worker at both schools. “Lots of the students put words on their feathers, and one of the prominent words that stuck out was ‘Hope.’”
Dyck feels it is important to learn about residential schools, the people who suffered, and to learn from this dark history.
“Moving forward as a school community, and for myself personally and how I interact with students on the subject matter, is ‘How do we go forward and do better?’ And so, highlighting positive achievements and highlighting things that we want for the future, I think is really important as well.”
Dyck says there were groups of students who learned about great accomplishments of Indigenous people and their contributions to different school subjects. She notes they also looked within the community.
“I think of people like Jocelyne Larocque and many others, it's so great to celebrate that success. And for kids, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to see that Indigenous people are successful and they are contributing to our community, and they're great role models to have.”
Throughout the school year, students have an opportunity to continue this education with an Indigenous Inclusion Group.
“It’s for Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids alike and we really try to make it student-led. So, we propose different ideas, whether it's bringing elders, knowledge keepers in, artists, whether it's land-based learning, see what they're interested in doing and then we help to facilitate that. So last year, we had a virtual painting afternoon with an artist from BC who did a Zoom instruction class with us, which was really fun.”
Dyck says they also took a large group of students on a trip for ice-fishing on the Red River.
When they made ribbon skirts last year, Dyck says it was clear that students enjoyed the activity and what they learned.
“The students loved it. And there were quite a few grade 12 girls that maybe ribbon skirts last year and they wore those to their convocation, and they were so proud that they had graduated and that they had made that ribbon skirt themselves.”
Spending time with students, staff and the community, Dyck says she feels good about the direction for education and the future.
“I feel hopeful and excited, and I've only been with the school going on four years now. But every year I see more and more initiatives, not just myself, but more initiative and interest from the kids and from the staff and from the community, and I'm really looking forward to just keeping that momentum going and really seeing where the kids want to take it in terms of exploring our history and the different arts and knowledge that we can learn from our Indigenous community members.”
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