Indigenous Elders, Indian Residential School Survivors, Metis Fiddlers and First Nations and Inuit Singers and Drummers — they were all part of the program at Ottawa’s Immaculata High School Aboriginal Student Conference, organized by Immaculata teacher Debbie Tracy and the Learning Partner for Aboriginal Education for the Ottawa Catholic School Board, Carolyn Brambles.
Participants from Project of Heart, Kairos, and the Legacy of Hope Foundation joined Aboriginal knowledge-holders to conduct workshops on topics ranging from the Indian Residential Schools, 500 years of colonization, Aboriginal cultural traditions, and how to actively participate in all the singing, the dancing, and the drumming!
Project of Heart participants decorated tiles in memory of the students who lost their lives as a result of attending St. Phillip’s Indian Residential School on Fort George Island, James Bay. Particularly poignant was the fact that IRS survivor Chris Herodier Snowboy, who addressed the grade 7 and 8 students at the conference, actually attended St. Phillip’s IRS and attested to the crimes committed against the children first hand.
Social activism to address Canada’s contemporary acts of colonization were the order of the day. Petitions to the Federal Government circulated, urging Canada to implement the UN Declaration defending Indigenous Rights. Students watched in amazement as the Shannen’s Dream video graphically told the story of one young woman’s heroic struggle to bring to light the consequences of Federal underfunding of the education of First Nations children.