Prince Rupert students put learning into action

Teacher Tasha Parker from Prince Rupert’s Charles Hays Secondary School recently sent us this report of what took place in her school on the National Day of Healing and Reconciliation:

Our “blessing” ceremony of our Project of Heart Tiles took place on June 11, National Day of Healing and Reconciliation. It began with a review of what the project was about. Charles Hays Secondary School was given 372 tiles, which represents ½ of its student population. Our wooden tiles were decorated, each in memory of a child who lost their life at the IRS in Port Alberni, BC. This is where many of the Aboriginal children from Prince Rupert area were sent.

These tiles are our gestures of reconciliation which demonstrates to the survivors of the IRS that we are learning. There are several parts that we needed to complete before we were finished the POH. Learning the history of IRS, designing a tile, discussing a present day social justice issue that affects Aboriginal people which Gage O’Brien tackled for us. Gage looked at the Northern Gateway Pipeline. He picked three videos both PRO and CON to show the classes involved in this project. The first was an Enbridge commercial viewed at called, “It’s a path to…” The second video was also seen on this website called, “Inspirational First Nations.” The third video was a YouTube clip called, “Oil executive son’s powerful testimony at Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline joint review panel.” (Google Lee Brain on YouTube.) Gage wrote a letter about his views on Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline which we will be sending to our MLA, Gary Coons, our MP, Nathan Cullen and our Prime Minister, Steven Harper.

After viewing all videos, teachers involved in POH read Gage’s letter to their class and some students signed it in support of what he wrote. An important part of this project was to invite a survivor. Charlie Carlick spent a couple of days sharing his experiences with us.

At our ‘blessing’ ceremony, Mrs. Louisa Smith, an IRS survivor of the IRS in Port Alberni, BC, spoke to us about how our gestures of reconciliation made her feel. She emphasized how pleased she was with the learning that had taken place, stressing that this is not an Indian problem but a Canadian problem. She was also pleased that we were discussing present day issues that affect Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people in this region. She felt it is important to take responsibility for what others have done, and work together on present day issues. Mr. Alex Campbell, our Smalgyax language elder at CHSS asked everyone to stand up and hold hands as he ‘blessed’ the tiles. Our District Aboriginal Principal, Debbie Leighton-Stephens thanked everyone for attending. She gave students ‘National Day of Healing and Reconciliation’ gifts as they left the room. Everyone is pleased that we are the last school to be part of phase 1 of the Project of Heart. We are honoured that our tiles will be on permanent display at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg for others to view and learn from.

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