Part 1: Roots of Reconciliation @ Lakes District Secondary School

Thank you to LDSS Educators for contributing this blog entry which captures their school’s journey in a Roots of Reconciliation project.



Lakes District  Secondary School  has been engaged in a journey this  past year  into a part of Canadian history that was dark and unjust. We, as a group of teachers, administrators and support staff, decided it was time to open up our  hearts and minds to the painful truths of the past. We decided to begin to educate ourselves and our  students on the impacts of residential schools on past generations as well  as present and future generations. We believe that understanding is the root of reconciliation.

The goals of our  project were as follows;

•  To deepen our  understanding of Aboriginal culture, local and national, so that we  can  honour diversity and develop positive relationships that support student learning

•  To educate ourselves about the impacts of residential schools so that we  can  teach the required curriculum with sensitivity, empa- thy, confdence and accuracy.

•  To teach the required curriculum from grade 8-12

•  To recognize the resiliency and strength  of First Nations people and culture.

For years  prior to our  big journey we  took time to pre-pave our  path. We gathered to discuss and brainstorm the best way forward. By the spring of 2015 we  took our  frst big Screenshot 2016-04-29 18.55.17step and with hereditary  chief Robert Charlie by our  side,  teachers Steve  Wilejto, Jeremy Gooding, Pat Dube, Walt  Van der  Kamp  and Rayanne Charlie went out to the shores of Ootsa Lake to fnd a tree which would anchor us and give  us strength in the year  ahead. This tree was under water since  the 50’s and we  lovingly pulled it out and brought it home. In the months ahead this tree would be the platform for  a collaborative school wide art installation that would stand outside our  school to commemorate the survivors of residential schools and to remind us of the lessons we  were about to learn.

In September of 2015 the teachers and support staff were invited to attend a sweat lodge at the Spirit  of the Land Healing Camp  on  one of two Sundays. This was a voluntary sweatlodgeexperience into one of the many healing ceremonies used by Aboriginal people all over  North America. There was a growing awareness that the path we  were on was based on a different world view.   We were becoming a team and experiencing a whole new per- spective based on ancient beliefs of connectedness, relationships and love!

Over the next two Non Instructional days we  worked together to review our  goals, incorporated Aboriginal content into our  courses where possible, and continued to get insharing circletouch with exactly what hap- pened in residential schools to create the dire  situation we  face  today. We cried  a river of tears as we  watched the flm “We  Were Children” and then spoke about our  thoughts and feelings in a traditional sharing circle.

On November  20th we  brought in Patrick Young, a residential school survivor who worked for  Health Canada. He, along with hereditary chiefs  Ron West  and Robert Charlie and elder John Cuthand, led our  team of educators through the story  of residential schools in Canada.  Patrick talked with gentle honesty about his experiences and others’. His humour helped to soften the blow of the brutalities his people faced at the hands of government and religious institutions. We used talking circles to dig into our  feelings and try to understand why all of this happened. We were beginning to see the truths of colonization.

3The leaders then shifted their focus  to resilience and healing.  Our  afternoon brought new understandings of just how strong the Indigenous people of this land have been to survive  the dire  situations they faced. We began to see hope and a way forward. Where the mind and heart meet there is clarity  and in that clarity  our  excitement grew.  We were experiencing the power of a newfound awareness and we  now had the strength of love  and compassion to move us out of the tears and into action.

The students would step up to the plate in the weeks ahead and we  all set  to work to ensure the path was as clear  as we  could make it.  It would be challenging but we  were much better prepared than ever  before to guide our  students through the questions and the tears.

Part  2 will bring you further along the story  of our  “Roots of Rec- onciliation” project.  We will talk  about the process the young people went through to raise  their awareness. Part  3 will highlight the Collaborative art installation and inform you all about our  celebration on June 3rd!   Please feel  free to write that day on your  calendars as, of course, you will all be invited!



1 Comment »

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your story. It sounds like a powerful process. I look forward to seeing the fruit of your efforts.

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