Judy Dunn and Noreen Pankewich visited Rolynda Simpson’s Grade 7 class at Juniper Ridge Elementary recently to share the experiential education of historical treaty-making, colonization, and resistance of Aboriginal Canadians.
The Blanket Exercise serves to build awareness around social justice, and it also broadened the classes’ understanding as they begin their study of the novel, “My Name Is Seepeetza”.
Participants of the Blanket Exercise represent the distinct cultures/sovereign nations of Canada’s original First Peoples. As students move onto the blankets, they are taken back in time prior to the arrival of the Europeans. The size of the blankets is reduced and often eliminated; in the same way that Aboriginal lands/populations have been over the past few hundred years.
The Project of Heart canoe that has been adorned with over 6,000 tiles made by students across the province is now on display in the U’Mista Museum in Alert Bay. The museum is in the shadow of the St. Michael’s Residential school and is currently exhibiting a photo collection entitled “Speaking To Memory” by Beverly Brown. This is believed to be the only collection of photos taken by a child who was a student in a residential school in Canada. Museum visitors have found that the canoe offers a healing counterpoint to the harsh reality depicted in the photos.
Students and teachers from across the province participated in the Project of Heart by teaching and learning about the sad legacy of Indian residential schools. Students designed tiles to commemorate survivors of residential schools and those children who never returned home. The canoe will stay with the exhibit for the next year, after which time it will become available for exhibit in other locations.
SFU PDP students
“I really enjoyed participating in the blanket exercise and found it to be a very good way to understand our Canadian history in a more visual, active way.
“I did not have the chance to study much Aboriginal history in elementary and high school, our education was very focused on the Europeans. Most of what I know I have learned from reading articles, in films and talking to people. I have learned so much more these past two months of PDP and I feel this has been one of the greatest gifts of this program to me. But I find every time we have a workshop about Aboriginal education I have more questions.
“I hope in the future that I will have the chance to spend some time with elders in our community and listen to their stories so I can begin to more fully understand. I also hope that my future students will have this opportunity as well, as I know it would deeply enrich their education as Canadians and citizens of the world.” — Bronwen
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