Step 4 – Survivor Visit

Once your group has finished their research and have decorated all of the tiles provided it is time to invite an IRS Survivor to visit your class or group to share his/her own experiences with the learner group. If you have an Aboriginal staff member, parent or student in your group that can help to explain the cultural protocol of inviting someone to share their knowledge, experience and wisdom it is best to have that person(s) talk to the group about how a person should be invited and how group members should conduct themselves during the visit.

If you do not have an Aboriginal person within or working with your group the following basic guidelines can be followed:

    1. Contact the IRS survivor, in person is best but if that is not possible you can contact by phone, and ask if he/she could visit your class or group to share some of their own experiences regarding their residential school experience, life experience and any other teachings that they would like to share with the group. Let the person know that you would also like them to smudge the tiles (or follow whatever protocol for prayer that is their own cultural practice) and to pray over the tiles. ** Be sure to talk to the survivor about the age of the learners. It is very important that the stories presented are appropriate to the age and comprehension level of the learner group.
    2. If you are inviting the survivor in person present a tobacco offering at that time. If you are connecting by phone, have a tobacco offering ready to present, or have a learner group member present, when the survivor arrives. You will also want to have a small gift ready to present to your guest at the end of the visit when you, or a group member, thank the survivor for sharing their stories with the group.
    3. Have the room set up in such a way that the visitor can share their stories in a way that is respectful and feels safe for the survivor and the learners. A circle might be the best setting or having the guest in front and the learners, especially if they are young learners or if there is a large group, in a semi-circle on the floor in front of the guest. Have Kleenex ready and available as it may be difficult for some of the group.
    4. Prepare the learner group in advance to be sure that everyone treats the guest with the upmost respect and appreciation. This person does not have to share with others, but is doing so out of kindness and a desire to help others learn. This in and of itself is a huge gift from the guest to the group. Learners need to understand and respect this. Group members should be attentive, quiet, not interrupt, not talk to others during the presentation.
    5. Learners should have time to ask questions at the end of the survivor presentation. Remind learners that this can still be very painful for the survivor so they are encouraged to ask questions but to think about the questions and be sure to ask them in a sensitive and respectful manner. The survivor may also ask the learner group some questions during their visit, so learners should be prepared to respond if asked a question and not to just sit and not respond.
    6. Once the survivor is finished speaking he/she can be asked to smudge the tiles and pray. The tiles should be prepared in advance by being set out on a table or a tray or some other way so that they can be smudged and easily moved to where the survivor is sitting or standing. The group leader can ask the survivor if he/she wants people to sit or stand during the prayer.
    7. After the prayer is finished the group leader, or another member of the group, will thank the survivor on behalf of the entire group and present the small gift. Ideally, each learner should file past the survivor, shake his/her hand, and thank his/her for sharing.
    8. Food is an important of any Aboriginal ceremony or event. Even if the whole learner group doesn’t eat together at the end of the sharing, one or two people from the group should sit with the guest and offer a snack, some tea or coffee and visit a bit before the guest leaves.
    9. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have a school counselor it would be advisable to have the counselor sit in on the session. It is also important to monitor the learners after the visit. Some people may be triggered or otherwise traumatized by hearing the survivor’s stories. Everyone is different and some people may be disturbed no matter how sensitive the speaker is to the age and comprehension level of the group members.

If you are unsure about where to find a survivor in your area please CONTACT US and we’ll help you out.

Building relationships based on truth is an important part of the Project of Heart process. A survivor card is a good way to express your own personal thoughts and feelings and to honor those who survived the Indian Residential School experience.

We invite you and your group to create survivor cards that will be shared with IRS survivors across Canada. You can complete the cards at the same time that you are decorating the tiles or creating your gesture of reconciliation.   You can share the survivor cards with the survivor(s) that visit your group in step 4 or you may wish to send them to the Project of Heart office to have them distributed to survivors.

You may create your own cards or  CLICK HERE to print the Project of Heart survivor cards and complete it according to the following instructions.

You will require a photograph of your group participating in Project of Heart to put into the card, a pen to write a meaningful message, and a glue stick to paste both a tile and the picture onto the card. 

A) Open the Survivor Card and glue the photograph of your group in the rectangular space at the top of the card. (The faded tiles indicate where it should be pasted). 

C)      If you have ordered tiles to use in your step 3 gesture of reconciliation please decorate a tile then flip to the front of the card to glue a tile on the white square in the top left hand corner. 

*Note: Survivor tiles must have different colored edges other than black. Black edges represent the children who lost their lives in Indian Residential Schools, and the colored edges are to honor the lives of those who survived. 

If you are not using tiles for your gesture of reconciliation you can draw the picture or design right in the white space, directly on the front of the card.

C)      If you have more cards than you have survivors to give them to please send the remaining survivor cards to: