In October of 2011, students at Elizabeth Wyn Wood Alternative School in Ottawa put their books to the side, and instead studied a living history that until then few of them had known anything about.
Students watched videos, examined historical documents, and learned about the intergenerational trauma that is the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools. They then poured their hearts into decorating the tiles, each one symbolic of a death due to the Indian Residential School experience. The set of tiles the Wyn Wood students decorated were in memory of Innu children who did not survive the IRS at Sept-Isle. Students then heard first hand from the IRS survivor Christopher Snowboy Herodier, who continues to live with his own memories of Residential School, finding solace through musical expression and by returning to his cultural traditions.
As the photos above vividly document, Wyn Wood students put their feelings and words into action by attending October 4th’s “Families of Sisters in Spirit” Vigil on Parliament Hill to commemorate and remember the missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. After the march from Parliament Hill to Victoria Island, students became part of the extended family of those missing and murdered women, coming together in support of those who had lost daughters, mothers, sisters and aunties.
By the end of the day’s program, Wyn Wood students knew they had been a part of a very special event, and were committed acting upon their new learning. Students sent letters of concern to parliamentarians and petitions and emails to cabinet ministers, adding their voices to the call for justice for Canada’s missing and murdered aboriginal women.