Three grade 8 classes at Dolphin Senior School in Mississauga, Ontario, participated in the Project of Heart in the winter of 2013. Students read selections from Shirley Sterling’s book, My Name is Seepeetza (Douglas & McIntyre, 1992), and conducted research on the Indian Residential School closest to them, The Mohawk Institute, in Brantford, Ontario. They then created posters about various topics related to the institute, and decorated and presented their tiles to the class.
On February 22 the students were visited by Garry Sault, an elder from the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. The morning was filled with songs, stories, and heart-felt testimony about the effects of the residential school on Mr. Sault’s family and on others that he knew. Mr. Sault then conducted a smudging ceremony over the tiles and answered questions about his cultural background.
In addition to decorating tiles, students also wrote letters to survivors. Here are a few comments from their letters:
Some people may say that they know how you felt and how you feel now—that they understand your pain. Maybe some people can relate, but I can’t. I can’t really relate because I never went through things that you went through. Even though I may not know you, I am proud of you because you succeeded in life. You made a life of your own. You’re perfect as you are.
May this letter encourage you for the future and may you see that people care and that your existence and legacy is still known. That’s because we all know your strong spirit will stay with you.
All of the students at Dolphin would like to thank Elder Sault for sharing his stories with us. We hope that our participation in the program will help to promote the remembrance of students who lost their lives as a result of the schools, and will help survivors to feel that they are not alone.