In the winter of 2011, Mark Buccino from Mother Teresa Catholic High School in Ottawa teamed up with Project of Heart to give his students an experience Buccino says they’ll never forget. In relating his experiences with the grade 11 and 12 Native Studies students, Buccino emphasized the disbelief his students felt upon learning about the abuses endured by so many young aboriginal students. It was not uncommon to witness anger, as the students learned about the Canadian government’s complicity in the crimes committed at these schools.
Buccino states, “I was excited that the students felt this much passion for the topic. I researched ways my students could get involved and do something. I came upon Project of Heart. After presenting the idea to my students — that they could decorate wooden tiles which would commemorate the lives lost at Indian Residential Schools, the students were in full support of this endeavour.”
Project of Heart answered the call by sending 600 tiles, enough to commemorate the children who died at Sturgeon Lake IRS and Grouard IRS, both in Alberta. Upon completion of the tiles, Jamie Koebel, a multi-talented Metis performer and cultural worker, smudged the tiles and taught them what it meant, and why this was such an important activity. “It was a powerful experience,” iterated Buccino.