Tara and Olivia

On Monday, April 4th, 2011, Project of Heart interviewed Tara and Olivia, both students at Summit Alternative School in Ottawa. Tara and Olivia chose to learn about the Indian Residential Schools for a Geography project.

Project of Heart attended the presentation they gave during Mr. Farley’s geography class in January of 2011. We were amazed at the research that Olivia and Tara had undertaken and the skill with which they presented their findings to the class of grade 8 students.

We caught up with these enthusiastic learners a month later, to find out what they learned while doing their research and to hear their ideas about what could be done to address the lasting legacy of residential schools.

POH: So, how did you (Tara and Olivia) get interested in learning about the Indian Residential Schools in Canada?

Olivia: We had to do an assignment. Tara thought learning about the Indian Residential Schools was good because of her background.

Tara: My mom works in Aboriginal law, and she knows a lot about this and I thought it would be good to learn about it too.

POH: Did you know anything about the Indian Residential Schools before doing this project?

Tara: I did.

Olivia: I knew there were these issues, but I didn’t know the deep details until it was brought up and Tara started explaining about it.

POH: You did such an excellent job presenting your topic to your classmates. But after all that you have learned and know, I’m interested in finding out just how do you think that the damaging effects caused by Indian Residential Schools be healed?

Tara: Well, more funding can be put toward the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Stephen Harper cut the funding. He should put it back. He also cut funding to Cindy Blackstock (from the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society). Children on reserves are really being deprived. He should put back the money to all these Aboriginal organizations that he’s cut it from. (…With respect to the Indian Residential School common experience payout….) They should make more support available, not only to the survivors, but to those who have been inter-generationally affected.

POH: Can you tell me the three most surprising things you learned about Indian Residential Schools?

Olivia: When I found out about the boy that got bleached…when they tried to make his skin more white.

Tara: Some of the abuse stories, for example, some the young girls who got pregnant and how they got rid of the babies. I also thought that the amount of money that the survivors got (the common experience payout) was ridiculously low.

Olivia: It seems you can never put a price on those kinds of effects (abuse). One thing that really surprised me was when I found out that there were murders. Authority figures, like priests and teachers, were involved in really bad stuff.

Tara: We should be learning more about Indian Residential Schools in school. In grade 5 when we were doing time-lines the part about the IRS was completely skipped over.

POH: We want to thank you so much for being able to come here and talk to us. We didn’t have much time to talk, but even in this short period of time, it’s easy to see that you’ve got a lot knowledge. And the tiles you’ve decorated are absolutely beautiful! Thank you and good-bye.

Tara and Olivia: Thanks to you too!

Interviewer’s Note #1: As part of the social justice portion of the project, Tara and Olivia signed the “I am a Witness” petition of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.

Interviewer’s Note #2: Tara’s great uncle Gilbert attended Pelican Lake IRS and her great-grandmother attended an IRS on James Bay. Tara and Olivia dedicated the tiles they decorated in memory of the children of Pelican Lake IRS.

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