Project of Heart wants to thank Kevin Conquest and Duulaa Roba for their hard work in getting P.O.H. off the ground and into the hearts of the students at Sir Wilfred Laurier High School in Ottawa. Chris Herodier Snowboy, IRS survivor and singer/songwriter, joined with the Sir Wilfed students to interpret the Project from his own experience, making the learning far more personal than what most learners have come to expect from a history module.
With the help of classmate Hannah Hurst, Kevin and Duulaa arranged for guest speakers from the Indigenous People’s Solidarity Movement Ottawa to speak to the class about issues facing Indigenous people today, and what can been done can to support their struggles. Sovereignty issues that the Barriere Lake First Nation in Quebec are struggling with are strongly linked to the environmental concerns that many Indigenous people are facing in their communities; this whole topic was a focus of concern in classroom discussions. It is perhaps not a coincidence that the Sir Wilfred students commemorated the survivors of the Amos IRS in Quebec, a school that many children in Barriere Lake once attended.
Several students shared their responses to Chris’s powerful personal account of life at an IRS:
-What caught my breath was when he had a break in his speech while retelling his experience; I could see him reliving his experience in his eyes. The sadness and anger was there and shared among the class. There was a long silence while he was recuperating. I was amazed for his bravery just to get up in front of the class and discuss about such a personal experience. The moment I witnessed this presentation, I reflected upon my own life, and decided I should not take my life for granted anymore. I have the privilege of going to a good school, being able to speak my Singhalese language, and not being repressed from anything. He (Chris) inspired me to create awareness of the loss of Native identity and health for the victims of residential schools.“
-Without these types of testimonies it is incredibly hard to sympathize with what they have experienced. However, when a student is exposed to a firsthand account of the horrors faced in the Residential Schools, or even in general, it has a much greater affect and meaning.“
-The project was very inspiring considering the things that we heard and the cause that we were supporting… Making the tiles was a lot of fun. I saw a lot of people enjoying it, and once I told them what the cause was it just improved from there… The presentation Chris made was very touching. To hear what he went through was just amazing, what he overcame and what he had to do to cope with what he faced. It’s one thing to talk about the survivors in residential school, but to actually see how it affected someone was just eye opening…Overall this was an awesome project to do and I would recommend it to anyone that wants to really see what residential schools were.”
Teacher Earl Heneke concludes: “students were deeply moved by the honesty of Chris Herodier Snowboy, and remarked on how his story really brought the impact of Residential Schools to life for them.”