Frederick Banting Alternate stands witness to residential school history

Click on image to see slideshow from Frederick Banting event
Click on image to see slideshow from Frederick Banting event

Students at Frederick Banting Secondary School in Stittsville participated in Project of Heart as part of their Lifeskills and Aboriginal Studies courses. They chose to commemorate the Spanish Indian Residential School – formerly Wikwemikong – in Manitoulin Island.  The tiles were smudged by Willy Bruce, who is a Native veteran and Carrier of the Aboriginal Vetern’s Eagle Staff.  Students participated in an Honour Song at the Drum and listened attentively to Willy as he shared the Traditional Teachings on values that should govern our choices in life.  As well, Willy gifted an Eagle Feather to the Banting Staff to honour all the young warriors who gave their health or lives as a result of the IRS experience. Continue reading Frederick Banting Alternate stands witness to residential school history

“I know what it’s like to be singled out”

Those are the words of a student from teacher Kristin Jefferies’s First Place program at Richard Pfaff Alternative in Ottawa.

The First Place students were reacting to what they had learned about the experience of being aboriginal during the Residential School era in Canada. The empathy they felt with the story of the abused students of their chosen school — Poplar Hill Residential School in Northern Ontario — showed clearly in the care and creativity with which they crafted their memorial tiles. Continue reading “I know what it’s like to be singled out”

Ottawa School commemorates notorious Mush Hole

The infamous Mohawk Institute was an Indian Residential School in Brantford, Ontario, which operated for over a century, finally closing its doors for good in 1969. Earlier this month, students of Elizabeth Wyn Wood Alternative School in Ottawa commemorated the children whose lives were lost as a result of attending the “Mush Hole”, as the institute was known to generations of students. (Click on image to see the set description, click here to see the slideshow.)

Students from art teacher Emily Park’s classroom joined with others students to participate in Project of Heart. Continue reading Ottawa School commemorates notorious Mush Hole

Chess Match of Cultural Genocide

Opposing forces, stand strong
on checkered board
of governmentality.
Vast fields of action
past and present.

Rules—unknown, unclear
complicated, ever-changing
without definition,
Unfair advantage-
vulnerable entrapment.

Pawns—First Nations societies
options and manoeuvres are few,
expendable entities.
Restricted moves-
of colonialism.

The Queen’s armies
defending “their” territory
minute allotments of land.
Geographic social spaces-
settlements and reservations.

Bishops—missionary social order
backed by royalty
and a clear conscience.
Stripping languages, childhoods and agency-
doing gods work?

Knights—armored oppressors
poised for tactical attack
ambush the unknown, unwilling.
Undermining intelligence-
paternalistic authority.

Rooks—towering organizations
corporations and global economy
silently lurking in corners.
Casting big shadows-
of entitlement and affluence.

Offense or defense?
Impossibilities for advancement
difficult to move, breathe or speak
without significant sacrifice
or range of influence.

Powerful structures—bureaucracy
influencing actions, policies
demanding conformity.
Supposedly maintaining balance-
inequitable justice.

Distraction, intimidation, domination
dangling financial carrots
tied up with legalese
and indirect subtleties.
We call your bluff.

Pawns in poverty and servitude,
plucked from a playing field
by masterful, invisible
mechanisms in control-
cultural genocide.

“Checkmate”…

-Christina Johns

The Arms of Power

The hands of power are far-reaching,
And often clasp what’s long been held
In trust, in spirit, in faithful stewardship
A realm where mystery and stories dwell.
Stretched out, no less
A cold caress…
To finger, test, and then molest.
Hidden valleys carved out by the flow of sacred knowledge
Passed from one generation to the next.
The song of power thunders
And leaves humility shaking in its wake
From turrets placed high –
Calls not to prayer,
But to the neon altar where we lay our money, our humanity, our compassion, our best.
A bleeding wallet pulled from the chest,
Find your way ‘round Wal-Mart’s the new vision quest.
It is the song that repeats in one’s mind,
Carried on the winds of exchange and opportunity
A powerful song, sung well by a few
Heard by the voiceless multitudes.
The arms of power like steel can bend,
And crush the needless obstacles
Who dare defy and question why
Such force does not relent.
Mountains moved, and cynics squeezed
The pumping heart of justice ceased.
Leaving naught but galactic biceps
And the lonely space between.
And yet,
The hands of power are large, and can give when will exceeds
The song of power lingers, and carries our good deeds.
And…the arms of power worlds unearth
that we may plant our changing seeds.

-Russell Fayant

SUNTEP students bring POH to Saskatchewan

Gabriel Dumont Institute visual arts instructor Christina Johns of the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) had her pre-service teachers complete the tile decoration component of the POH module during the fall term of 2008.

The SUNTEP students brought extremely compelling imagery to the exercise which commemorated the students who died at the Lebret Indian Residential School at Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. Click on the adjacent photo to see more examples of her class’s work.

Russell Fayant of the SUNTEP program and Christina herself have also responded through verse to the ongoing colonial project of cultural extinction, as experienced by their Métis community. Christina’s poem can be read here and Russell’s here.

Ottawa family takes POH around the world

The following report was submitted by Warren McBride, an educator from Ottawa:

We are a family of four, including two children aged 14 and 12, and in August 2008 we set out from Ottawa on a year-long round-the-world back packing adventure.  Before leaving, we decided to participate in Project of Heart.  We received the wooden tiles and agreed to keep in contact with the Project of Heart team in Ottawa.

POH would send us, via email, several names of children who had died while attending Indian Residential Schools in Canada and we would choose an appropriate location in the world to dedicate and decorate these blocks in those children’s memory. Continue reading Ottawa family takes POH around the world

In under the wire: Northwestern United takes the POH challenge

In one of its last community activities as an independent congregation before amalgamating to form Kitchissippi United Church, members of Northwestern United Church in Ottawa’s west end gathered in May to participate in a Project of Heart workshop.

Led by POH co-founder Louise Madaire, the group met to do some research and find out a little of the Unitied Church’s complicity in carrying out the government’s “genetic engineering” project.  A map of the IRSs across the country show which denominations and which locations the schools resided.  Participants then met on a second evening to decorate the tiles and decide on a social justice issue to confront head-on. Click on the image to see the photo set from the two evenings.

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