In November, the Faculty of Education Tweeted this statistic: Only a few months after being published, the Shattering the Silence: The Hidden History of Indian Residential Schools ebook had 12,453 worldwide visitors to the ebook site. Since then the site has had 22,494 visitors! The word is spreading, thanks to opportunities at the U of R for Shuana Niessen to present about the book as well as the feature in Discourse Magazine. The next presentation will be at the Regina Public Schools Teachers’ Convention, which will be held on February 16. The session already has 82 people signed up! If you haven’t already, be sure to visit the site with a view to using the resource in whatever sector you work. Though the ebook was written with teachers in mind, and thus curricular links are available, it is useful for learning about Indian residential schools in Saskatchewan and can be of use for understanding many of the issues affecting society today.
Congratulations to Sylvia Smith, Founder of Project of Heart, who received the President’s Distinguished Graduate Student Award at the fall 2017 convocation. This award recognizes outstanding academic performance and is granted to a student whose graduating thesis, exhibition, or performance and the corresponding defense was deemed meritorious by the examining committee.
“GREAT! In some ways, I can’t believe it’s actually finished. I’ve never really thought of myself as an academic and certainly, with ‘life’ intruding the way it tends to, I never thought I would finish the darned thing. I’m just so lucky to have had a wonderfully supportive spouse and thesis committee (Dr. Carol Schick actually came out of retirement to help out) because they certainly didn’t have to do what they did.”
What excites you about your thesis?
“What excites me so very much is that my findings have already been referenced to support work being done around reconciliation and the necessity of teaching *for* justice and more practically, *doing* it. ”
Sylvia’s master’s thesis is called: Teachers’ Perceptions of Project of Heart, An Indian Residential School Education Project
The purpose of this study was to gain insight into how settler teachers took up an arts and activist-based Indian Residential School Commemoration Project called Project of Heart. More specifically, it sought to assess whether or not the research participants were led to transformation, demonstrated through disrupting “common sense” (racist) behaviours of teachers and students as well as through their engagement in social justice work that Project of Heart espouses.
Since 2007, Ontario school boards have been required by Ministry policy to teach the “Aboriginal Perspective” in their high school courses, yet at the time of the study (2010), there were still very few resources available for educators to do so. There were even fewer resources available to teach about the Indian Residential School era. Project of Heart was created by an Ontario teacher and her students in 2007 in order to address this egregious situation.
The study was guided by grounded theory methods and the findings suggest that while Project of Heart did not achieve “transformation” in its participants as assessed through teachers’ lack of completion of the social justice requirement, teachers indicated that both students and teachers benefitted greatly because of the relevance of the learning.
Defended: April 2017
Supervisor: Dr. Marc Spooner
External Examiner: Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and professor for the School of Social Work at McGill University
Thesis committee members: Dr. Ken Montgomery, University of Windsor, Dean, Faculty of Education and Dr. Carol Shick, former Canada Research Chair in Social Justice and Aboriginal Education
This book extracts, reorganizes, and compiles the school-specific Saskatchewan elements of the NCTR reports and primary school documents as well as incorporating other resources and former student accounts that have been recorded and published online. It is an informative and accessible resource for teaching and learning about Indian residential schools in Saskatchewan.
In spring 2017, The Faculty of Education’s Indigenous Family Therapies Class (EPSY 870AB) in partnership with the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre (IPHRC) have planted a Project of Heart Reconciliation Garden.
The Objectives of this project in our class were:
• To present a culturally-competent counseling intervention by integrating Indigenous knowledge within the more modern ecopsychology approach;
• To encourage a three-way therapeutic alliance between counselor, client, and nature as co-therapist;
• To deconstruct the modern therapeutic “space” by promoting nature-based therapeutic interventions; and
• To identify gardening as a social justice approach.
We based our garden design around the Honouring Memories Planting Dreams
Celebrated in May and June, Honouring Memories, Planting Dreams invites individuals and organizations to join in reconciliation by planting heart gardens in their communities. Heart gardens honour residential school survivors and their families, as well as the legacy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Each heart represents the memory of a child lost to the residential school system, and the act of planting represents that individual’s commitment to finding their place in reconciliation. In 2016, more than 6500 hearts were planted in gardens across Canada.
For more information about the Reconciliation garden, please contact:
JoLee Sasakamoose – JoLee.Sasakamoose@uregina.ca
John Klein – John.Klein@uregina.ca
Reposting from https://reginaediblecampus.wordpress.com/le-potager/
Growing up across the river from the Cowessess Indian Residential School, Selma Marion was always jealous of the students there. The kids would always wear nice outfits, Marion thought. They would attend church together in a big group.
“I always thought they had it good. Little did I know,” she said.
Marion later worked at Service Canada and was involved in registering residential school survivors for financial compensation. The veil was lifted. Marion began to learn what really happened across the river — abuse, loss of language, neglect, removal from their families.
She found herself wanting to know more. It led her to sign up for Project of Heart.
Project of Heart is national program, now its second year being offered at the University of Regina, about the history of the residential school system in Canada.
“People learn together about the Indian residential school system. And they teach each other about that and then we commemorate the children and the people that went to those schools,” said Jenna Tickell, facilitator of Project of Hope.
The group meets biweekly for seven weeks on Saturdays in a Luther College classroom on the U of R campus. The program isn’t lecture-based; instead, participants complete their own research and then come back and teach their classmates what they’ve learned.
“I do have a presentation at the end of that where I teach them about the specifics that I’m sure they’ve already touched on,” Tickell said.
Project of Heart was founded by Sylvia Smith while she was completing her university master’s degree. The idea behind it is to use an artistic approach to commemorate the people and families who were, or still are, affected by the residential school system in Canada.
Tickell attended a guest lecture featuring Smith and heard about the program. Tickell herself wrote her undergraduate honours paper on the need for indigenous education to be introduced at an elementary school level.
“I just saw the value in (Project of Hope) and there’s so many people that I know, my own age, older than me, that never got the education. So I want to reach as broad as I can to try and engage those learners and break that awareness,” she said.
The program has each class learning about the history of a local residential school. Each participant then learns about a specific child who died while attending the school. The class also decides on an activism in which to participate throughout the course.
Tickell doesn’t give the students ideas of what to do. They come up with it themselves. Last year the class became involved in a push for the municipal heritage designation of the Regina Indian Industrial School cemetery. This year the group will once again learn about the Regina Indian Industrial School, though their specific activism has not been decided on yet.
‘What needs to be happening;’ residential school cemetery gets heritage status
Published on: October 3, 2016 | Last Updated: October 3, 2016 7:31 AM CST
REGINA — Along a dusty gravel road on the edge of Regina is a small plot of land surrounded by a rail fence with peeling white paint, weathered teddy bears, flowers and a couple of dream catchers.
There’s just one headstone in the 680-square-metre cemetery for the two children of Rev. A.J. McLeod, the first principal of the Regina Indian Industrial School, belying that dozens of indigenous children from the school are buried there too.
“It’s easy to overlook the cemetery itself. Even when I first came out here, we drove right by,” said Janine Windolph, president of the Regina Indian Industrial School Commemorative Association.
“The site needs to take another step further in basically acknowledging the students that are here and how we can start making it more apparent that this is a scared site for gathering. That’ll all come in time.”
A big step came Sept. 26, when Regina city council voted unanimously to grant the site municipal heritage status. Civic administrators suggested the move after a 2014 land survey found there were potentially 22 to 40 unmarked graves of children in the cemetery.
Windolph said an archeologist for the association identified 36 anomalies, but she said there could be many more children because it was practice at the time to bury several together.
Sakimay First Nations Chief Lynn Acoose, whose grandmother attended the Regina Indian Industrial School, said the heritage designation process has been emotional.
“It’s not only about preserving the memory. It’s not only about preserving the site and the graves. We need to also, from this tragedy, create something powerful and good out of the loss of these children,” said Acoose.
The Regina Indian Industrial School operated between 1891 and 1910. An unknown number of students died there.
Justice Murray Sinclair, who led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has estimated at least 6,000 children died at residential schools but it’s impossible to say with certainty.
The federal government stopped recording the deaths around 1920 after the chief medical officer at Indian Affairs suggested children were dying at an alarming rate.
Residential schools were often crowded, poorly ventilated and unsanitary. Children died from smallpox, measles, influenza and tuberculosis. Some were buried in unmarked graves in school cemeteries, while others were listed as “missing” or “discharged.” In some cases, parents never found out what happened.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s offices are now closed and the work has been transferred to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg.
Centre director Ry Moran said the designation in Regina “is just exactly what needs to be happening.”
“It means that one city in particular has really stepped up and honoured the children that are buried in that cemetery,” said Moran.
“And sadly, across this country, there are many, many, many other locations exactly like the one in Regina. So the fact that we’re seeing the city designate this site as a commemorative site, really I think can help encourage other cities and other jurisdictions to take a real hard look at this work that needs to happen across the country.”
Moran said preliminary estimates suggest there could be around 400 burial sites across the country directly associated with a residential school or where residential school children are likely were buried.
He said the centre recently looked at the cemetery associated with the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ont.
“That’s a really good example of a site where we know there’s kids buried there, but it’s heavily overgrown,” said Moran.
“We know that there’s graves likely outside of the cemetery as well, and that’s just one of many examples of a cemetery that’s really been forgotten and a critical part of our history being ignored and disrespected, truthfully.”
The work is not done for Windolph. She would also like to see the Regina cemetery get provincial heritage designation.
She said it marks a pivotal point in history — the time where cultural and identity loss began.
“And so, in order to start our healing journey, we have to go back to that point where this happened. We have to make good out of our past and simply acknowledge it is the beginning of that journey.”