As part of Màmawi Together’s Youth for Reconciliation Movement, they launched a National Challenge which challenges all educational institutions across Canada to commit to a Legacy Reconciliation Project in their school. The goal is to “raise awareness, increase engagement, and empower positive action in our schools and communities that will bring us closer to real society equity and justice” with Indigenous peoples in Canada.
As part of this Youth for Reconciliation movement, they held their second Youth for Reconciliation Community Day on May 24, 2018 which I attended with my son’s class. The day featured 12 incredible workshops for schools to select from, including some offered in French this year. There were so many amazing things that we talked about and learned on this day. This blog post talks about one of the workshops we attended and provides a whole load of information, with links for further details, that will help you start a conversation with your children about reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada.
I know that I have mentioned this in previous posts, but it is worth repeating here … At the final Tragically Hip show in Kingston, Ontario, Gord Downie talked about the people “way up north” – the people that we were “trained our entire lives to ignore, trained our entire lives to hear not a word of what’s going on up there. And what’s going on up there ain’t good. It’s maybe worse than it’s ever been, so it’s not on the improve.”
Those words really hit me – the idea that we were trained our whole lives to ignore an entire group of people. I think this is the case with a number of different groups of people – Indigenous, homeless, refugees, etc. Well, if we can be successfully trained to ignore something, I think we can also be successfully trained to start caring and taking action. This was part of my inspiration for wanting to take my son’s class to this amazing event, for wanting to get involved with Màmawi Together, and for wanting to work towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada.
And I want to bring you along with me on this learning journey. So, as a first step, I have summarized some of what we learned at the Youth for Reconciliation Community Day …
One of the many awesome workshops offered was entitled “Allies in Reconciliation – Spirit Bear and First Nations Child and Family Caring Society Work”, where we learned about:
(1) Spirit Bear
From the super Learning Guide created by Ottawa Teachers for Social Justice and the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society:
• Cindy Blackstock has written a book entitled ‘Spirit Bear and Children Make History’. It tells the story of “a landmark human rights case for First Nations children at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (www.fnwitness.ca). In January 2016, nine years after the case was filed, the Tribunal ruled that the government of Canada was racially discriminating against 165,000 First Nations children by underfunding child welfare and failing to provide equitable public services.”
• “’Spirit Bear and Children Make History’ was written to engage a younger audience in learning about the human rights case, and to demonstrate and affirm the powerful role of young people in the reconciliation movement.”
• You can order the book online at https://www.fitzhenry.ca/Detail/1775191400
(2) Shannen’s Dream
From the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society’s website:
• “Shannen Koostachin of Attawapiskat First Nation lead a movement for “safe and comfy” schools and quality culturally based education for First Nations children called the Attawapiskat School Campaign.”
• “Shannen knew just how hard it was to learn in an on reserve school that was under resourced. The only elementary school for the 400 children in Attawapiskat was closed as thousands of gallons of diesel fuel contaminated the ground under the school. The federal government put portable trailers on the play ground of the contaminated school as a ‘temporary school’ until a new one could be built. Nine years later there was still no sign of a new school.”
• “Shannen never went to class in a proper school and the portables became more run down over time. The heat would often go off, the children would have to walk outside in the cold to go from one portable to another and the doors were warped. The children of Attawapiskat launched the Attawapiskat School Campaign to reach out to non-Aboriginal children all across Canada to write to the federal government and demand a new school for Attawapiskat.”
• You can follow Shannen’s Dream on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/shannensdream.ca
• The website lists 6 actions you can take to participate in Shannen’s Dream at https://fncaringsociety.com/shannens-dream-participate
• These actions are great ideas for a Legacy Reconciliation Project at your school in response to Màmawi Together’s National Challenge. For more information on this, check out Màmawi Together’s website at: https://www.mamawitogether.com/nationalchallenge/
I was so happy that we were able to be involved in Màmawi Together’s Youth for Reconciliation Community Day this year. I want to ensure that our school is able to work with Màmawi Together in all their future initiatives. Working with Màmawi Together and the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society are great steps towards my efforts to learn more and do better with regard to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada.