Teacher Heather Poublon and her Native Studies students recently dove into Project of Heart to learn more about First Nation, Metis, and Inuit people’s experiences at the Indian Residential Schools. Creativity and excitement were the result in the classroom, as the students persevered in their attempts to get their local Member of Parliament to come to their school to address their concerns.
Here’s Heather in her own words:
Hi, my name is Heather Poublon and I am teaching the NBV3C course at Leamington District Secondary School in southern Ontario. I spent one week teaching my students about the atrocities of residential schools and I found myself and my students becoming very down and depressed. I was proud to be able to educate the students about the truth, but I also felt an urgent need to find a positive message. Through some collaboration with other teachers in the Greater Essex County District School board, I was introduced to POH. I felt relief when I went to the website to learn about what we could now do to make a difference!
Together, the students and I learned about the people of Igloolik and Pangnirtung, but it was very difficult to find information about the Residential Schools there. We tried calling several organizations and even emailing the town information contact but we were not successful. The students with the impressive computer skills were also unable to find any details.
We were fortunate to have a friend who has traveled to Nunavut several times. She supplied us with their local newspapers and magazines which were teeming with authentic art and culture! Once we knew more about the people, we started the tiles. There were 18 students and over 200 tiles to be completed. We played local music from “Lightening Drum Singers” while we made the tiles which created a great atmosphere.
Once the tiles were completed, we invited elder Theresa Sims to smudge the tiles for us. We gathered together outside on a beautiful day to give respect to the lives we were honouring. She shared with us the story of her mother who was a survivor of the Mohawk Institute. The students were amazed by her family’s courage and hardships. She expressed true raw emotion which made all the lessons on residential schools become real for the class.
The day after the smudging, we decided to write letters to our local Member of Parliament, Dave Van Kesteran. In the letters, students expressed their concerns about how residential school survivors were being compensated and offered ideas that would encourage healing and renewing culture rather than throwing money around. We received a letter back from the Conservative Party ensuring that Dave would be reading our letters.
We really connected during this process and the students are very passionate about all Canadians knowing the true about the past and the reasons for many current issues in our First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.
Thank you so much for this opportunity
Quotes by the students
“This has been a very eye opening experience”
“I hope that our letters will promote change”
“Raising awareness felt good. Is was nice to try and make a difference”
“By not forgetting those that died at the schools, we are not allowing the truth to be forgotten”
Chi meegwetch to the students of Leamington District S.S. and to their teacher Heather. Their courage and their determination to do something about the ongoing legacy of the IRSs is commendable!