Saturday, September 28, 2013

Truth and Reconciliation - A perspective from Emily in Grade 7

One of the goals of AESN is to build understanding and respect among all learners for Aboriginal  culture, history and Indigenous ways of knowing. Teachers at Randerson Ridge used last week's Truth and Reconciliation events in Vancouver as a special opportunity to deepen and extend the knowledge of their learners. They were able to use their grant from AESN to support the costs of the trip. When you read this, I hope you will agree it was a great investment. The timing was especially fortuitous as last week also saw a particularly offensive letter to the editor published in one of the local Nanaimo papers. Here's how Emily, a student in Mary Lynn Epps Grade 7 class responded: 

Truth and Reconciliation
In my Gr. 6/7 class at Randerson Ridge elementary, we went to the Truth and Reconciliation week in Vancouver, and have read many books written by Aboriginal Peoples about their time in residential school (i.e. Goodbye Buffalo Bay, Fatty Legs, A Stranger at Home, and more)   Each week we have also have circle, and before we do anything at circle we acknowledge the territories we are on, Snuneymuxw and Snaw-naw-as.  We also read the article, in the News Bulletin about reconciliation with Chief Doug White of the Snuneymuxw First Nation. We also read and were outraged by a recent letter written to another Nanaimo paper.  The opinion in this letter was uninformed and racist, and angered many people.  In my article I hope to inform you about the facts.
 How would you feel if someone came into Nanaimo, took your children away and built all over your  land telling you that you had to go live in a special spot put aside for you? You would probably feel sad, angry, and confused. This is what happened to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.  Colonization affected Aboriginal People immensely, especially with the residential school.
Although other groups, such as the Doukhobors, also suffered by having their children taken away from them to residential school, no other  cultural group lost 3-5 generations of children, with only  an estimated 75 000 (50%) of the children returning to their families of the  approximately 150 000 children that were taken to residential  school.   The residential schools were open until the late 20th century, contrary to the popular belief that they closed in the early 20th century.  The last government run school, Gordon Residential School, closed in 1996. However, White Calf Collegiate, run by the Lebert Residential School Board, was the last residential school to close in 1998!
 The inter-generational effect of residential school has impacted Aboriginal Peoples poverty rates as well as the drug, alcohol and abuse rates.  Over half the children in foster care in Canada are Aboriginal Children. This is particularly sad because only 10% of Canadians are Aboriginal. This means that Aboriginal Children are very much overrepresented in foster care.
I hope that after reading this article you realize what the Aboriginal People went through with residential schools and will join my class and others in the truth and reconciliation process.  Now you know the facts, what would you like to say to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada? I know what I want to say, “I’m sorry for the traumatizing experiences you had to go through as a child in residential school.”  I know this isn’t enough, just to say sorry and that the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada will probably never truly forgive our government, but I hope that you see that my apology comes from my heart, and that I want to take the next step forward with Canada’s Native Peoples.
Emily D Grade 7 Randerson Ridge Elementary  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Aboriginal Network - a time to connect, inquire and act

With Lynne Tomlinson at Reconciliation Walk
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in some of the events connected to Reconciliation Canada  and the experiences were deeply moving. Watching the canoes come into False Creek and hearing the words of courage, hope, forgiveness and love from the range of speakers was profound. To be among thousands of people yesterday standing in the pouring rain listening to the speakers, hearing the drum beats and seeing the see of faces of so many people from such diverse backgrounds was humbling to say the least. I was grateful to share this experience with Lynne Tomlinson from West Van.
One of the canoes entering False Creek
I was reminded of how much we have to learn as Canadians about our shared history - and how important it is that within our schools all our learners have a chance to learn, explore and experiences Indigenous ways of knowing.

The Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network provides a space and resources for schools interested in focusing on Aboriginal education - for everyone. For schools in the lower mainland and beyond, the first meeting for 2013 will take place on Tuesday October 22. Please share the attached notice  with any colleagues that  you think would be interested in attending.

I'll close this post with a quote from the executive summary of the impact assessment conducted last spring on AESN:

        I have really appreciated the message that bigotry can manifest itself as low expectations for our    First Nations students. As a First Nations woman, having this message stated clearly by non-First Nations educators has been very powerful. I have witnessed educators examine their practice and ask themselves if in fact they have perpetuated this destructive pattern. I have also walked alongside teachers as they begin the journey to doing things differently. These teachers are all good, hardworking, well intentioned educators. "One of the hardest things teachers have to learn is that the sincerity of their intentions does not guarantee the purity of their practice." (Brookfield, Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher) - a network member

This year of networked inquiries will give us all a chance to reflect on our part in improving outcomes for all our Aboriginal learners - and on deepening the knowledge, understanding and respect of all our learners - of every age.