On Thursday, our school marked National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Six young students presided over a ceremony that was shared with our Junior, Middle and Senior School communities. Founded on the advice of our Indigenous Guide and Titumels/Teacher, Bill White, the ceremony involved artwork from the Junior School, a writing team from the Middle School, and a guiding student from the Senior School. Bill White and Wes Edwards spoke and sang, while our students shared reflections, stories, and dance.
Learning Alongside the Ceremony
On the day of the ceremony, faculty offered grade-appropriate learning and activities for our students. The work to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation began last April with staff meetings to discuss how best to prepare ourselves and position our community for a meaningful day. Part of this again involved consultation with local Elders, who offered guidance on our approach as a community. Much of this centred on the need to “surround and protect” our students so that they not be negatively impacted by the sadness associated with the day. Great care is taken in what is shared at each stage of life with an emphasis ultimately placed on understanding and relationship building.
Learning in the Days Before and After the Ceremony
In the weeks on either side of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we hold events that celebrate Indigenous culture and values. This follows the teaching that any recognition of great sadness needs to be bracketed with an affirmation of the goodness and beauty that lie at the heart of the community. To this end, our Senior School students had already listened to Roy Henry Vickers and Lucky Budd’s story Orca Chief, while the Junior and Middle Schools heard from the longhouse speaker and holder of traditional songs, Willie Pierre. In the coming weeks, the Junior School will consider the values associated with leadership through the tale Chief Goose, and the Middle and Senior School will explore the rediscovery of culture through the work of Polaris winning musician, Jeremy Dutcher, along with spoken word poetry by T'áncháy Redvers.
Our Continuing Journey
Yet even this is only a small portion of our wider approach. We’ve reimagined our core values through First Nations story and art, developed an Indigenous cultural literacy course for our whole staff, invited an Indigenous Scholar into our faculty, offered our first Indigenous Peoples Within Canada Award, and much more alongside all of the initiatives directly tied to curriculum.
More importantly, we’ve sat for many meals and cups of coffee with members of the Indigenous community, and they have spent time shoulder-to-shoulder with our students. Though we have a long path still to walk, we’re becoming a place that is more welcoming to a wider range of people. I’m grateful to my colleagues who have given so much of themselves to this path.
This week's ceremony reflected all of this work. I was deeply moved to see our students at the forefront, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, working together as friends and contributing to our school’s continuing journey.