On May 4th, Project of Heart was invited to attend a joint effort by the Durham District School Board and the Durham Catholic District School Board to the 4th annual Aboriginal Symposium aptly called “Spirit Calling Us to Share”, at the Education Centre in Whitby Ontario.
The morning keynote was provided by author David Bouchard, author of The Drum Calls Softly, I am Raven, The Song Within My Heart, The Great Race, and Voices from the Wild. Many of the workshops focused on resource kits developed this year by teachers, that support the infusion of Aboriginal Education in the classroom in all divisions.
Of special note for the morning’s activities, was a workshop by local Port Perry teacher, Nancy Hamer-Strahl titled “The 10 most significant Crossroads in Aboriginal History”. The Aboriginal resource kit Hamer-Strahl developed is based on Jan Beaver’s book of the same name, and includes a variety of activities, assessment pieces, slide shows, and media links. Teachers were alive with excitement as Nancy lead them through fun-filled, action-packed exercises, sure not to be forgotten.
In the afternoon, Project of Heart was highlighted as one of the workshop choices, led by Lakota Elder, author, and Indian Residential School survivor, Cliff Standingready and Shelley Diamond, teacher from G.L. Roberts in Oshawa. This formidable duo teamed up to bring greater awareness of the IRS to teachers and the importance of educating students about one of the blackest eras of Canadian history. Shelley and Cliff strongly advocated for teachers to bring their students into the Truth and Reconciliation process through participating in Project of Heart. Workshop participants interacted with others through hands-on decorating of small wooden tiles, each indicative of a life lost due to the IRS experience while Cliff honoured the spirits of those who never returned to their families through a smudging ceremony after the tiles were completed.
The symposium wrapped up with the first of the closing speakers for this event, Metis Elder, author, and birch bark canoe-maker, Marcel Labelle, who spoke of the importance of culture. Maintaining a strong connection to land was evident as the knowledge canoe Marcel made by hand, graced the conference room. Cliff Standingready closed the event with appeals to the teachers to be courageous enough to teach the truth about Canadian history. His message of healing through the Truth and Reconciliation process, and the actions that concerned Canadians can involve themselves in, was given priority in his talk.
Memories of the noon-time dancers/singers and the all-day vendors, so ready to arm teachers with books and beautiful items for sale, will surely bring teachers back for next year’s symposium. We’re booking in advance!