By Nancy Hamer Strahl –Teacher, Port Perry High School, Port Perry, Ontario
This past semester, my Current Aboriginal Issues class was privileged to meet Larry Loyie, author and residential school survivor. His story changed the lives of my students and they felt they wanted to do something for the survivors and for those who never made it back home. Project of Heart gave us an opportunity to do just that.
We chose to be part of the healing process by acknowledging and honouring the lost generations of missing children. Our students were eager to represent the Spanish Girls School. We knew the story of Shirley Williams, a former student, and wanted to find a way to pay homage to Shirley and our friend Larry. The project gave my students an outlet for their emotions when faced by this terrible chapter in our history.
Students need a way to express their sorrow and grief for the lost children of residential school. Project of Heart gave them the tools to be part of the truth and reconciliation process. They felt very strongly about the social justice component of the project and sent letters to the government expressing their views on the need for funding for the Healing Foundation.
We completed our tiles and asked an Elder from Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation to come and smudge our tiles and letters. Our Elder was so touched by the work the students had done to commemorate this lost generation and the struggles they had to endure. This project is a step forward towards the understanding of our history. As Canadians we need to talk openly about the residential school experience and find ways to be part of the truth and reconciliation process, only then, will all Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Canadians be able to heal from the injustices of the past.