This spring, Timothy Cooper and his Native Studies students in Wiarton, Ontario, dove into Project of Heart for a second time. Tim and his students’ enthusiasm and persistence paid off, as beautiful tiles, each one symbolic of the loss of an Indian Residential School student from Wabasca IRS in Alberta, were decorated and honoured in ceremony, never to be “lost” to history again. Read Tim’s write-up of his students’ experience with the Project.
Twelve months ago, my 2012 Grade 9 Native Studies class and I stumbled upon Project of Heart while watching the CBC’s “8th Fire” documentary.
It was extraordinary. Without exception, the students were excited and determined to get involved and I promised them I would investigate the possibility of making our own contribution. The website was, of course, very informative and Sylvia Smith was incredibly helpful, meaning that we were busily preparing our designs within the week.
Again this year the students were very keen to tackle the project for a second time. Both last year and this we painted our tiles with images of the schools whose children we were commemorating, projected onto the classroom wall, which, together with our investigations into the history of Residential Schools, left the students with a strong sense of the importance and value of Project of Heart.
The tiles were smudged, and afterward, we literally ‘performed’ a response. By taking five poems written by Residential School survivors we represented key lines with a dramatic tableaux. These were presented twice: first for our school board’s First Nations, Metis and Inuit Committee and then for the entire High School. Its emotional impact was considerable.