Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology ran with Project of Heart — and their running partner was…. a class of elementary students at Lady Evelyn Alternative School in Ottawa! How did that happen?
SIIT is located on the Asimakaniseekan Askiy Reserve in Saskatoon and Kathleen Worm is their Manager in Workforce Development. Kathleen hosted Project of Heart for over 90 IRS Support Workers gathered in Saskatoon for a conference. What was unique about this Project of Heart workshop is the way in which the participants were supported in carrying out the social justice action.
Help came from a class of Grade 3 and 4 students in Ottawa who are part of their Shannen’s Dream Club. These students made 91 beautiful post-cards, all decorated to depict their vision of what reconciliation for First Nations children on reserves in Canada would look like. The backs of the post-cards are labelled with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s address. The Support Workers did the rest of the work – writing what they want the Prime Minister to do to address the inequities: namely, to implement the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s orders to fund First Nations children on and off reserve equitably to their non-Indigenous counterparts.
The POH workshop participants in Saskatoon were able to skype in to Ms. Fontaine’s class to thank the children for their solidarity with Indigenous children. They made a heart-felt connection with the 8, 9, and 10 year olds that partnered with them in their social justice action!
Here’s what Kathleen had to report about their Project of Heart experience with the kids:
Danielle Fontaine’s Grade 3 and 4 class in Ottawa ON learn about more than the abc’s of education; they learn the abc’s of Canada’s history and the abc’s of compassionate humanism.
Danielle has been incorporating First Nations issues in the classroom for over 6 years now and the result is nothing short of loving. Teaching compassion first, Danielle’s students then learn to empathize with the current peril of First Nations children across Canada.
Shannen’s Dream, a powerful show of advocacy by a young First Nation girl wanting a school for her community was one of the stories that the students learned of. In a show of support and activism, the 8, 9 and 10 year olds designed post cards with messages and images reflecting their mind and heart on the issue of First Nation children’s educational rights. These postcards are all addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Saskatchewan Resolution Health Support Workforce, the emotional and cultural supports offered to survivors going through their independent claims and hearings, gather twice a year for professional development. This past gathering in January had approximately 90 of the post cards designed by Ms Fontaine’s class. Using these postcards, messages were sent to the Prime Minister on many issues surrounding First Nations people.
To further strengthen the impact and the shared understanding, the RHSW Gathering skyped into the Grade 3 & 4 classroom in Ottawa. The excitement and joy was palpable. The opportunity to let those children see the impact of their own efforts and for the aging group of survivors to see hope for the future as young ones are taught the truth and are willing to fight for what’s right.
Thank you Kathleen and all the IRS Survivors who met their supporters for doing Project of Heart and sharing themselves with their young fans in Ottawa. The Government will continue to be challenged as long as Canada has youth who are passionate about fair play. Their message is clear.
A wonderful story from yesterday’s Regina Leader-Post, with video featuring survivor Eugene Arcand and Charlene Bearhead from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
Teaching about the Residential School Era is still not a mandatory part of the Saskatchewan K-12 curriculum but thanks to the events of the day, 1500 students and teachers went home having experienced a crash course on Canada’s hidden history. The Faculty of Education at the University of Regina organized the day’s events and Project of Heart was also on the program; students decorated tiles as witness pieces.
Our thanks go out to Dean of Education Jennifer Tupper for taking the lead in organization a superb Education Day!
(Repost from National Project of Heart site)
The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair at the 2016 Woodrow Lloyd Lecture at the University of Regina
March 5-7, 2015
A youth to youth interactive forum exploring how to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Canada. Hosted with Children of the Earth High School in Winnipeg, approximately 300 youth from across the country are anticipated to take part. The target age is for youth between the ages of 15 and 29.
For more information about registration, or presentation opportunities, go to http://canadianroots.ca/national-conference
Presenter: Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Associate Professor, University of Alberta and Executive Director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
7:00 p.m. Education Building, Rm 106.1
University of Regina, 3737 Wascana Parkway, Regina, SK
There is a growing conversation about reconciliation in Canada and addressing contemporary inequalities and injustices facing First Nations children is a vital part of the conversation. Dr. Cindy Blackstock will examine how children and young people are working with First Nations to achieve equity and to uplift the country at the same time.
Refreshments follow the lecture. All are welcome.
For more information: http://www.uregina.ca/arts/public-lectures/lloyd-lecture.html
The Witness Blanket installation is now at the University of Regina campus (January and February). Instructors are invited to include topics of residential schooling in this winter’s courses. Please bring your students to view the display on the main floor of the RIC Atrium (between College West and the Laboratory Building). For additional information, view information below.
The Witness Blanket is recognized as a national monument that highlights the atrocities of the Indian residential school era. The installation honours the children’s’ lives and their legacies that were lost and untold within history. This profound installation has 887 pieces of artifacts that have been reclaimed from various abandoned residential schools, government buildings, churches, band offices, treatment centres, universities and ceremonial objects from across Canada. The artist, Carey Newman, states, “To bear witness is to show by your existence that something is true”. As a witness, you have the opportunity to become a part of the untold stories and to take part in reshaping the history of the Residential School Era.
The Witness Blanket will be showcased at the University of Regina in the months of January and February 2015. The installation is unsupervised and stands alone on the first floor of the Research and Innovation Centre (RIC). For further information about the project and artist, please see the following links below:
- Witness Blanket website: https:// www.witnessblanket.ca
- Witness Blanket video: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-witness-blanket
- Artist Carey Newman interview: http://www.rcinet.ca/en/2014/10/06/witness-blanket-recalls-tragic-chapter-of-canadian-indigenous-history/
To create a foundation of knowledge for the residential school era, a suggested resource is the movie “We Were Children,” which gives first-hand account of personal experiences survivors endured while attending residential schools. Another resource is an episode of 8Th Fire called “Sacred Heart Residential School,” depicting the personal impacts of the disconnection children experienced from their communities and the hardships faced while in residential school. To view these videos and for further information, please see the following websites:
- We Were Children: https://www.nfb.ca/film/we_were_children
- 8Th Fire- Sacred Heart Residential School: http://www.cbc.ca/8thfire/2011/12/painful-legacy.html
To further the opportunity for learning and discussion about the experiences of the residential school era, I invite you to have an open discussion about student perceptions and reactions to the installation. Here are some questions for debriefing:
- What knowledge did you have prior to viewing the Witness Blanket?
- What did you learn from the installation?
- What resonated with you the most?
- How do you plan on facilitating the conversation about residential schools and the experiences of the children that attended?