Terry Fox Public School in Ajax Ontario, held its first Aboriginal History Day on Friday, June 17, 2011. Teacher Guy Brushey was inspired to develop this initiative after attending a Project of Heart workshop at the May 4 Spirit Calling Us to Share – Durham Aboriginal Education Symposium.
Terry Fox PS decorated tiles in honour of the students who did not survive their experience at Fort Frances IRS in northern Ontario. Guy worked with several teachers, Nikki Soliman, Wendy Van Kempen and Mae Ramphal, to plan the day of Aboriginal awareness for the school. Students from grades 4 – 8 gathered in the school’s gym during the first two periods to learn about the Indian Residential School system in Canada. Mr. Brushey presented some factual information before the school’s STAR group sang a Welcome Song. Students then heard from Mr. Norman Kelly, brother to Terry Fox teacher Nikki Soliman, member of the Onigaming First Nation, and a survivor of the Fort Frances IRS. He shared some of his personal experiences and talked about the intergenerational effects the IRS has had on Aboriginal families and communities.
Classes then returned to their homerooms to decorate the Project of Heart tiles. Students returned to the gym in the afternoon to hear from local Lakota Elder and residential school survivor Cliff Standingready. After speaking to the audience about his IRS experiences and the importance of their participation in the Project of Heart, Cliff honoured the tiles with a smudging ceremony. Students from JK – gr. 8 stayed outdoors after recess to see a demonstration of Pow Wow style dancing. Many students accepted the invitation to participate in a Friendship Dance, perfect end to an incredible day.