At the Picani Nation Reserve in Alberta, the Crystal Good rider grew up under strict instruction to always take care of her teeth.
For years, he found this insistence on his mother confusing in its intensity. It was only after she was old enough to hear the stories of her mother’s childhood in the residential school system that she finally understood.
“He removed all my mother’s teeth at the age of 12,” Good Rider said. “She walked around the residential school without teeth for six months. All because he complained of a toothache.”
Now assistant principal at Fish Creek Elementary School in Calgary, Good Rider has to deal with the same question her mother might have raised when she raised her: How do you teach kids about residential schools? How do you teach children about horrific incidents that happen to children, when adults are too burdened by the truth?
Good Rider and teachers across the country told the star that they felt you should start early, be persistent, and promote the belief that it takes empathy, kindness, and inclusivity to prevent a repeat of horrific acts. the wanted.
Lesson plans dealing with residential schools were amplified and re-inspired with the creation of Orange Shirt Day in 2013 when the remains of 215 children were found at a former residential school in Kamloops, BC.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Education announced plans to expand First Nation, Metis and Inuit content and learning in the primary curriculum. Currently, Ontario’s curriculum includes compulsory Indigenous-focused education in all grades except 1 and 3. Those intervals will be extended starting September 2023.
“It is sad that these additions to our children’s education will not happen until 2023 at the earliest,” said Sol Mamakwa, an NDP critic for Indigenous and Treaty relations, adding that the process could have been accelerated if Ontario had not. Would have ended an indigenous curriculum writing program in 2018.
Good Rider said that when teaching elementary school students about residential schools, the lessons should begin by simply understanding that residential schools are generally not good places. The learning process continues and becomes more complex as the students.
Bojana Dautbegovic-Krienke teaches pre-kindergarten at Mayfair Community School in Saskatoon. Only then will her 3rd and 4th year olds learn about residential schools for the first time.
“Orange Shirt Day starts the conversation we have all year at school,” Doutbegovic-Krienke said. “We sit together in a shared circle and begin with Phyllis Webstead’s story. I explain to her that she lived at home with her family, and that she felt as much love there as we would have felt from our families. Huh. “
Dautbegovic-Krienke then introduces the concept of loss, the rage of being overthrown by everything you know and not being able to even put a shirt on your back.
“I have asked all the students to bring pictures of their families and objects from home,” she said. “We talk about how we have those items at school because they make us feel better, and we know that our families are coming back for us at the end of the day. Phyllis returns to her grandmother after school.” She couldn’t see her anymore. She couldn’t speak her language. They snatched her shirt.
“We talk about that, and how sad the kids would be if this happened to them. Then I wrap it up, because I don’t want them to start crying.”
This week, Dautbegovic-Krienke and fellow childhood teachers at the school, Kelly Vicarious and Heather McChern took students white T-shirts and painted them orange, symbolically gifting Phyllis Webstad her stolen shirt back. Gave.
Those shirts would hang in classroom windows all year long, a catalyst for conversation Dautbegovic-Krienke hopes will persist into the adult lives of her students.
“While we continue the difficult conversation about residential schools, what they mean and how children feel in them, we also talk about how we can do better,” she said. “We ask children how schools can show kindness, and how we can show kindness to each other. We asked each of them to write down one thing they can do that shows kindness. Kindness only It’s an antidote.”
Holly Pichette, an Indigenous artist from London, Ont., has been working for more than weeks to create a series of free coloring pages ahead of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday. Since she started last year, classrooms around the world have used her art to help teach about residential schools, which feature indigenous motifs and imagery.
This year’s piece of Pichette depicts nine children and a mother holding hands in the moonlit sky, admiring the silhouettes of two more children. Below them are the words “Every Child Matters” with flowers growing from it.
“The flowers that emerge from the words represent buried children found in residential schools,” Pichette said. “It represents them being visible now. Children looking at the moon, representing the here and now, it’s about how children are learning about this, how much empathy they feel.
“Two Children in the Moon is a way of saying that we remember and honor the victims of residential schools. And that they are now together again – many times siblings separated from residential schools.”
Monica Sass, a grade 4 and 5 teacher at Victoria Public School in London, uses Pichette’s art to reflect on the history students are learning.
“They expand their thinking and learning through creative expression,” she said. “The art of Havali shares a close relationship with me and the students. Images are alive, they are alive and children are attracted to them. What they love to see children, people like them, is reflected in their education, and the fact that children are turning away from the audience allows children to see themselves in their place. “
On Wednesday, after giving pages of pichettes to his students, Sass asked how he felt, and what came to mind after they finished coloring.
“We may have different symptoms, but we are all people who need the same things,” said her student, Levi.
“It makes me think of people who are respecting the kids who didn’t make it home,” said Abbi, another student.
“A whole bunch of indigenous people that includes a white man. Just because I’m different doesn’t mean we’re different, we’re really the same,” Ethan said.
Lisa King is an Indigenous Education Consultant with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. She has led in-class programs and after-school workshops with students from Kindergarten to Class 12 for the past five years.
King echoed other teachers by saying that lessons in residential schools should be overshadowed by lessons of kindness.
“When we look at the culture of the communities that these schools encountered, their system, their entire lives, was based on kindness, communal living and making sure everyone had what they needed,” he said. “It was snatched up in residential schools. Turning back on that and seeing the fact that being kind is something we should be doing every single day is very important. “
King said working in his role is rewarding and challenging. That said, it’s difficult to have a job where “everything refers to your personal life,” issues that “affect your ancestors, those that affected your children and grandchildren, those that affected you on a daily basis.” They affect.”
It is paramount, then, that celebrations of the richness of indigenous history be married into lessons of systemic abuse.
“The disappearances and murders of residential schools, local women and girls, no clean drinking water – all these issues come up all the time,” King said. “We need to balance them with the beauty of the culture, the beauty of the teachings.”
Good Rider said his mother and other survivors were delighted to learn that their stories were now being told.
“When the Kamloops situation happened, I came home from work and my mom asked me if we talked about it at school,” Good Rider said. “She said, ‘I’m so glad people are starting to know what happened to us.’ “