This week we Project of Heart received a wonderful letter from Brandon, MB teacher Sherry Baker, whose junior high students recently completed their commemoration of the students who attended Dauphin Indian Residential School — an Anglican Church administered IRS that operated in western Manitoba from 1955 until 1980. We’ll let Sherry’s letter speak for itself:
I began Project of Heart with a group of Grade 7 and 8 students who were given the option to learn about Aboriginal culture and history as part of their educational programming. I learned about Project of Heart after watching an episode of CBC’s The 8th Fire, and thought it would provide students with an excellent opportunity, not only to hear and understand the story, but to contribute in a way that was both thought provoking and personally meaningful.
When we began to talk about Residential Schools, I was surprised to learn how many students, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, had never heard about Canada’s Indian Residential School system. As we learned more through research, guest speakers, and ongoing conversations, emotions ran high. The students expressed every emotion from outrage, to sadness, to shame, and most importantly, to empathy. When we discussed the inter-generational impacts of the Indian Residential Schools that are still affecting families today, students’ eyes were opened; they were finally able to understand why so many Aboriginal people are struggling in today’s society.
The Project of Heart gave us the opportunity to learn about and acknowledge the recent past and to understand the ongoing impacts that Canada’s Aboriginal people, families, and communities are facing today. Understanding what lead to these present-day realities helped my students to see that these struggles are due to events that took place in the recent past. They are not occurring because Aboriginal people are bad or inferior. This knowledge alone has the potential to empower and encourage both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth to work together, respectfully, empathetically, and harmoniously, for a brighter future. Thank you for an amazing opportunity.
Sherry Baker, Teacher
George Fitton School
Brandon, MB, Canada