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Orange Shirt Day is Thursday

Dear MA Families and Friends,

This Thursday, September 30, will be the first time the school has recognized Orange Shirt Day/National Day for Truth and Reconciliation across all levels of the school. It has always been a part of our higher level programs, but this year we are taking it school-wide and engaging our students in thoughtful conversations and lessons at developmentally appropriate levels. On Thursday you will see every staff member and student in an orange t-shirt from local Indigenous-led printing company Rezonance Printing. The shirts will be distributed to the students on Thursday morning.

We fully grasp that this process is different for everyone and that as an individual there is a broad spectrum of where you may sit within it. Our hope is that if you are at the start of your journey, you can create a brave space where you are comfortable with being uncomfortable. This in itself can be a big step. Many of our students may be starting here on Thursday. It is such an immense topic to learn about, we need to be patient in how it will unfold for one another.

Personally, as a settler to Turtle Island, I am extremely grateful to have the privilege of working in the field of education on land that is connected to the London Township Purchase, Treaty 6, signed on September 7, 1796, by representatives of the Crown and certain Anishinaabe peoples. Some of the treaty payments included calico and serge cloths, cooking implements, rifles and flint, and vermillion. We also border the McKee Purchase, Treaty 2, signed on May 19, 1790 by representatives of the Crown and various First Nations. There were over 50 signatories to this Treaty, including settlers and Indigenous leaders. The treaty payments included cloth and linen, tools for hunting and cooking, looking glasses, combs, ribbons and laced hats.

Every time I get into a canoe with my paddle in hand, I take a few moments to reflect on the gifts that are before and around me and the numerous resources it has offered me, beyond the beauty of nature that I am in and the stewardship it requires. More recently, I have tried to imagine what it was like so many years ago, how colonization and stolen land has changed it, and the immense impact to Indigenous peoples and their culture.

The work of Reconciliation is an ongoing process we are committed to within our school. We started more focused work in this area a few years ago with the elementary Medicine Wheel art project with Metis Artist Brenda Collins. Participating in a Kairos Blanket Exercise with our Junior High students, led by local Indigenous leaders in our community, a couple years ago was an immersive and shattering experience I will never forget and learned so much from it. I highly recommend participating in one if you have the opportunity to do so.

We are grateful for the parent support we have received from our Elementary community in reviewing the Indigenous history and culture resources we have in our Library to ensure we are offering an appropriate representation, and we look forward to adding to the collection. Librarian Rob says there has been so much interest in the books by Indigenous authors and about Orange Shirt Day and Residential Schools that there is only one book left in the Elementary Library: “The Girl and the Wolf.”

Below are some further resources to support your family through these challenging conversations because Every Child Matters. To give you some context, here are the level highlights from our programs:

Toddler– The toddler teachers will talk about the themes of Friendship, Love and Peace with their students.

Casa– The casa teachers will be focusing on Indigenous Canadians and their cultural influences (music, books, art,) and  their place in our National history. The books they will read will focus on creation stories as well as discussions around love, courage, respect, equality and inclusion.

Lower Elementary– The lower elementary teachers will read stories from a variety of Indigenous authors which includes a book called “Phyllis’s Orange Shirt.” The story is an adaptation of Phyllis Webstad’s book “The Orange Shirt Story”, which was adapted and rewritten for children ages 4-6. Their focused theme is kindness and empathy.

Upper Elementary– The upper elementary teachers will be reading stories and watching videos from the Truth and Reconciliation website with their students. There will be age appropriate discussions around Indigenous children being sent to residential schools.  The class will also have discussions around empathy and they will do some reflective and creative writing around these stories and videos.

Junior High– Junior High students are at an age where they can dive deep into very important topics such as this one. They have had group discussions this week focused on truth, reconciliation, systemic racism and the sadness in Canada’s history in regards to residential schools and the mistreatment of indigenous peoples.

Resources: The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

From CBC 

48 books by Indigenous writers to read to understand residential schools

From the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society

Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – Virtual Participation!

From CBC Kids: Youtube Channel Playlist 

Learn about Indigenous heritage with CBC Kids’ Janaye and Tony, and watch episodes of Molly of Denali, which is about an Alaska Native girl and her adventures.

Kids News: What does Reconciliation Mean

From Pass The Feather

Livestream of “Remember Me: A National Day of Remembrance”

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