Ottawa: Glebe Collegiate Aboriginal Awareness Day incorporates Project of Heart

Our thanks to Glebe Collegiate teacher Aneke Jansen van Doorn Cambell for this report; in it she shares the experience of remembering the students who lost their lives at Ahousat Indian Residential School in B.C. and the Federal Hostel at Igloolik, Nunavut.

 On May 16th, 2012, Glebe H.S. students in Ottawa hosted an Aboriginal Awareness Day, the culmination of much work by many students and staff. Project of Heart formed the anchor for the day’s events. Starting in February 2012, Glebe’s social science teachers taught students about residential schools, challenges facing Aboriginal peoples today, and then decorated the Project of Heart tiles as their first gesture of reconciliation.
The day itself was started off by the Kontirennotatie Kanehsatake Women Singers. They explained about the water drum and the meanings of the songs and social dances. SarahKahentanoron Beaver, a grade 12 student at Glebe, taught the 80 students gathereda variety of dances including the round dance, the woman’s dance and the stomp dance.
Teachers and invited guests joined in the fun.
Then, grade 5 and 6 students from Lady Evelyn Alternative School came with their teacher, Danielle Fontaine, to explain to us a brief history of the injustices First Nations children in Canada are addressing, and their fellow students’advocacy work around equity for First Nation children in education (Shannen’s Dream).
Media clips of the children’s activism on Parliament Hill highlighted the presentation.  Glebe students were invited to sign letters and to join the rally to be held on June 11th – Our Dreams Matter Too.
Annie St. Georges, our invited elder smudged the tiles and spoke with the students about some of her own journey, her struggles with discrimination and her hope for the future. Our principal was presented also with a copy of the 2008 official apology for residential schools, which will hang in the main office.
Here is teacher Anna-Marie’s response to Rachel Collishaw, the organizer of the rememberance ceremony:
“Thank you so much for organizing this workshop yesterday. It brought home for me the need to shape our identity as Canadians. The few times I’ve participated in an activity with First Nations people, I see how we are given an incredible opportunity to hone our concept of what it is to be Canadian. They propose unity through peace and understanding even after their incredible suffering. We have much to learn from the Native approach to life. Thanks for giving us all the chance to reflect. Awesome!”
Here, student leader Arielle Edgecombe-Fontaine reflects on the experience:
“I had been looking for a way to get Glebe involved in the social action surrounding aboriginal rights, but was struggling to find a way to hook a group of over-stressed, busyteachers. I knew about Project of Heart thanks to my mom, Danielle, who had brought it to her school, Lady Evelyn. I was so happy when Ms. Collishaw told me that she had organized the project for our school. It was the perfect opportunity to build a foundation of support for aboriginal issues and to involve our school in the June 11th Our Dreams Matter Too rally.”
Rachel Collishaw, teacher facilitator for Project of Heart states, “There was an amazing sense of togetherness in the library when the final bell rang and not a single person moved, captivated completely by the powerful, inspiring Algonquin elder Anne St. Georges. My experiences with Project of Heart will not soon be forgotten.I am so proud to have created a small piece of this amazing project.”

To Rachel and all the teachers and their students at Glebe who learned about this undertaught aspect of

Canadian history and made it come alive for young and old alike, POH says, “Meegwetch!”

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