BAC students and arts ed/elementary ed students participate in Project of Heart

Learning about the history of Indian residential schools in Saskatchewan (ELIT 202 and DLNG 425)

In the winter term, ELIT 202 students from Shuana Niessen’s class and DLNG 425 Bac students from Dr. Heather Phipps’ class engaged in Projects of Heart led by Niessen. Students created commemorative tiles to honour former students from several Indian residential schools in Saskatchewan. Phipps arranged to have emerging Elder-in-Residence Joseph Naytowhow smudge the tiles. Smudging the tiles is important because of the effort that was put into creating them, and to honour the survivors who are still struggling, says Naytowhow. “You want to send the energy out, you don’t want to make it stagnant, and you want to keep it connected. Smudging is beautiful that way. It helps release if there are any emotions.”
Naytowhow also played his flute and drum and enacted a story in which he portrayed his grandmother’s experience of him being taken from his grandparents at the age of 6 and placed in a residential school. Dr. Anna-Leah King accompanied Naytowhow in teachings and songs.

Student comments:

“Doing the Project of Heart opened my eyes to the deeper history behind the stories I’ve have always heard. There were many more stories and experiences than I could have anticipated. It made
my heart break about all of the experiences that innocent children had to endure. I am grateful to those who have been brave enough to speak out about what happened at residential schools.”
Nikki Cairns.

“The Project of Heart experience was a very good learning experience for myself. I found it rewarding because in researching the different residential schools it gave me a chance to gain a better
understanding. While researching I was appalled that they were still running in the later 90s. …I found colouring the chips very therapeutic but also felt peace in the classroom. It is something I
believe I will do more research on in the future and found this project to be an amazing learning experience.” Mitchell Smith.

Doing a Project of Heart, an inquiry based, hands-on, collaborative, intergenerational, artistic journey of seeking truth about the history of Indian Residential Schools, is now even more accessible with the newly translated French version of the resource Shattering the Silence: The Hidden History of Indian Residential Schools in Saskatchewan/Rompre le Silence: Lever le Voile sur les Pensionnats Autochtones en Saskatchewan. English and French versions can be downloaded at