This spring, Lynn Rainboth, a veteran teacher at Devonshire Public School in Ottawa along with her grade 6 class, commemorated the Indigenous students who went to Amos Indian Residential School in Amos, Quebec. This school was chosen because of a unique personal connection – Rainboth herself had taught the Barriere Lake First Nation children at Lac Rapide in the early 1990s, and many of the community members had attended Amos IRS in their youth. The community was “close to her heart” she says, and it became close to hearts of her 10 year olds as well, as can be seem in this article written by Kitchissippi Times correspondant, Salah Sultan.
An IRS survivor visited the school in June to answer questions and to smudge the decorated tiles the children had created. At the completion to the project, children at Devonshire learned about the ongoing Human Rights complaint filed by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations regarding discriminatory funding practices by the Federal Government toward First Nations children in the child welfare system.
Rainboth’s children signed the “I am a Witness” petition and learned, in so doing, that First Nations children are still being hurt even though Indian Residential Schools are with us no more.
To see more on what the project has meant to Lyn Rainboth personally, you can read a heartfelt letter she wrote to Project of Heart, published with her permission below.
Why Project of Heart is important in teaching the Aboriginal Perspective – a call to others teachers
This project is very near and dear to my heart. The native people are our brothers and sisters, we walk the land of their ancestors, drink the same water, breathe the same air. Their spirits are connected to ours. I think we have a responsibility to help in the healing projects that are taking place throughout Canada. Part of the healing is acknowledgement of past injustices – we cannot explore Aboriginal perspective without taking into consideration the overwhelming damage done to children in Residential Schools. The legacy of this pain lives on in the damaged lives of many aboriginals. I witnessed this first hand while living for two years in Rapid Lake, a reserve three hours north of here where children lived in poverty and faced many profound social problems. The Prime Minister’s apology in June 2008 was a huge first step in the ongoing collective process of reconciliation, he set an example of what all Canadians can do to help to ease the pain and help Aboriginals move on.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has a mandate to educate Canadians about the Residential School experience. “The truth telling and reconciliation process as part of an overall holistic and comprehensive response to the Indian Residential School legacy is a sincere indication and acknowledgement of the injustices and harms experienced by Aboriginal people and the need for continued healing.” Project of Heart works to further these holistic goals: it helps students gain understanding and express empathy for the sad and lonely experience children faced in these schools. My Grade 5/6 students have responded with such compassion and beauty to this project. They have enthusiastically, listened to and discussed stories, decorated commemorative tiles and have written letters from the point of view of children in the schools. They have embraced the project with wonderfully open spirits. They have made connections to another culture and deepened their understanding of the native perspective and of the world. Through their art work and responses they have helped transform the dark pain hidden away for so many years into something beautiful and hopeful. Now their tiles will be curated at The Truth And Reconciliation Commission’s first national event this June in Winnipeg.
I hope educators will see the importance of this project and the importance of publicizing it. It is deeper than the curriculum but involves the curriculum: it develops the character trait of compassion, especially for those who live in our midst, it deepens student understanding of the aboriginal perspective and helps them to make connections to another culture and its history.