Mary Graham and the students in her Native Studies course at Timiskaming District Secondary School in Northern Ontario will never forget commemorating the students who lost their lives while attending the Federal Hostel in Cape Dorset, Nunavut. As Graham states, “It is a project of learning, of compassion, and of reconciliation.”
Graham told Project of Heart, “Some of my students knew about the residential schools, but the majority had no idea. It was alarming to discover how little prior knowledge they had. Thanks to this project, the students had an opportunity to learn about their “hidden” history. It wasn’t easy. There was anger, frustration, and so much sadness.”
They were inspired to decorate their tiles with care and respect. Students knew that their works of art would ultimately be curated at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. They knew that what they were doing was important. Graham iterates, “The students poured everything they had into making those tiles. They’re absolutely gorgeous, and I couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve done!”
Graham realized that even though students were fully engaged in remembering the lives lost so senselessly, they also realized that a lot unfairness and injustice continues to plague Aboriginal people. “Our students learned about the epidemic level of violence directed at Aboriginal women and girls through signing the Amnesty International petition. We also participated in Shannen’s Dream, not only to support Shannen Koostachen who attended TDSS, but because the students were shocked about the conditions of schools on reserves. There certainly is no shortage of injustices Aboriginal people are faced with and we need to do more to about it.”
Asked if if she had a final impression to pass along, Grahmam said, “Only that I’m bursting with pride for my students’ efforts, and I just hope that every school in Canada eventually participates in it.”
Project of Heart also couldn’t be more proud of Ms. Graham and her students. Thank you so much, Timiskaming!