Above: a sample of the letters written by Notre Dame students as part of the social justice component; click on image for slideshow of completed tiles
A Native Studies teacher from Notre Dame Catholic High School in Ottawa completed Project of Heart with her students in June by commemorating the deaths of the Indigenous children at the Cross lake IRS in Manitoba.
Suzanne Keeptwo sends us this report of her class’s experience with Project of Heart:
The project was integrated in a very natural way, into the fabric of the Native Studies course. By using the IRS phenomena as the focal point of their course, the students branched outside of that central circle of study to look at why First Nations Peoples were judged as “different” and “in need” of “civilization and Christianization”. Then they looked a the impact of colonization and the puprose and impact of the IRS system; this was a natural segue into contemporary issues that affect so many Indigenous peoples.
Their final area of study was the rekindling of traditions, and the importance of the reclamation of culture, customs, and ceremony– why and how this serves as a healing process anda means of survival. With all this in mind, the POH tiles were decorated for the children of Cross Lake. IRS survivors came to the school to speak to the students about their experiences in the schools.
For the social justice component, the students expanded their circle of knowledge, as students were provided with specific web-sites that dealt with pressing issues concerning human rights violations by the Canadian Government (i.e. the First Nations children being discriminated against in the child welfare system and the lack of human rights protections to Aboriginal women and girls), to constitutional violations of sovereignty rights (for example, the Department of Indian Affairs imposing the electoral system of governance on the Algonquins of Barriere Lake). Each student wrote a letter to whomever they identified in a position of power to initiate change or address their area of concern.
The students received “postcards” with their work featured as a memento of their involvement with the Project.