BGRD schools honour Indigenous history and culture
To raise awareness of the residential school experience and to affirm that we believe every child matters, students and staff in a number of BGRD schools donned their colourful attire on Friday, September 28th and Monday, October 1st for Orange Shirt Day.
The day is recognized annually on September 30th in communities across the country. It originated in 2013, inspired by the story of residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad, who had her beloved orange shirt taken away at a residential school in 1973.
While this year’s Orange Shirt Day lands on a Sunday, many schools have chosen to observe the day on Friday, September 28th or Monday, October 1st.
Some, like École Leduc Junior High, used the opportunity to give students an up-close look at Indigenous history and culture. Students heard from Jerry Saddleback, a member of the Samson Cree Nation. He spoke about the decades-long impact of residential schools, telling the students “the first peoples of Canada are still healing.” Saddleback also shared important parts of his culture with the students, including the need to find balance and the significance of hoops to his traditional dance.
It was an eye-opening experience for many of the students, and one that BGRD believes will help us move forward in reconciliation. In BGRD schools, teaching about Indigenous experiences and culture goes beyond a single day – it is a year-round focus. “It is important that we as educators honour reconciliation and move forward in that journey,” says Kerri-Lynn Hickman, the Division’s First Nations, Metis, Inuit Lead Teacher. “This helps our Indigenous students, as well as our non-Indigenous students.“
Hickman’s work includes liaising with school staff and administrators in order to further foundational knowledge in our schools and find ways to incorporate Indigenous perspectives in the classroom.
That work will continue to advance as Hickman’s efforts, and those of staff Division-wide, revolve around relationship-building in order to provide more experiences like the one at École Leduc Junior High.
“Hearing directly from Indigenous speakers and guests is one of the best ways of learning for our students and speaks to the heart of reconciliation,” says Hickman.