These inspiring notes were sent to us by teacher Shelley Diamond from the Durham Board of Education:
I was introduced to this wonderful project by another Native Studies teacher in my Board. I have incorporated it in two different Native Arts classes– both classes enjoyed painting the tiles very much. Both groups were incensed and distraught when they learned of Residential Schools and our country’s complicity in it. I know it opened their eyes and hearts as well as their minds.
I am doing Project of Heart this term, and my group is quite small- only nine, but they are REALLY into learning about things and they decided to take on a social action issue involving a young boy, Charlie Hunter, who drowned at 13, while attending I.R.S. and was buried hundreds of kilometres from his isolated, northern reservation. The Canadian Government refused to pay to ship his body home.
Many years later, this past spring, the Toronto Star ran this article about Charlie.
My students learned of this sad tale through the Elder who blessed our tiles- Cliff Standingready. They decided we could fundraise and send money to help, so we made crafts together. Star readers were also moved, and enough money has been raised to finally get Charlie “home”! His family has set up a Trust Account in Charlie’s name. I contacted them, and had an email back from Charlie’s sister, who assured me we could still donate to the fund.
My students sold crafts at several lunch hours and at an “Artfest” night at my school. We still had a lot left, so I have arranged for us to have a table at the local Metis Festival , happening at the end of June, here in Oshawa. We are having a celebration get-together and have invited our Elder, Cliff, to join us. It is a happy way to end the year and a positive contribution to society by its next group of leaders!
Since this letter from Shelley, she has let us at Project of Heart know that organizers of the Metis Festival in her area were “thrilled” about the students raising money for their event, as well as for the Charlie Hunter memorial. As Shelley states, “she wanted us to be sure to let people know Metis also were part of the IRS experience, and that’s why many went “underground” – not declaring heritage, for fear of losing their children!”
Thank you Shelley for making Project of Heart come alive in the hearts and minds of students, as well as for the family members of Charlie Hunter. Though governments refuse to help with this memorial, ordinary Canadians still can. If readers would like to donate, they can do so using these details:
The National Residential Schools Survivors Society
TD Canada Trust 004