During our exploration of residential schools and how we were going to participate in that observance on September 30, the students and I came up with ways to weave together that learning in a meaningful way. We read Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and The Orange Shirt Story by Phyllis Webstad. I believe the students were truly moved by what they heard during the read alouds. With that in mind, we also wanted to show our support for the survivors and wanted to validate this dark time in Canadian history. In our exploration, we learned that tie-dyes in the 70's became a symbol of freedom, so we not only wanted to wear orange t-shirts, we also wanted to show our wish for freedom for these children, so we came up with the idea of doing tie-dye t-shirts as a symbol of that lost freedom. Our art was made of ripped orange tissue paper which was also a symbolic way of showing how these children were "ripped" from their families, how their culture was "torn apart", and how they all carried pieces "tattered" memories of that horrible time on their hearts. When put together in their artwork, from a distance, the pieces blended together to look like an orange t-shirt, but upon closer look, the scars and torn pieces become more visible, much like how they must've felt inside. This was an amazing journey with my class!
"Children were abused, when (all) they wanted was to just learn English. Native First Nations and Indigenous people were (being) bleached of their own culture." Majdi M.
|"I realized half way through the book that people thought they were doing the right thing, that no kid should be different, that they should learn what we (as Canadians) learn, not what's in their culture." Chloe W.|
These were some of the thoughts that they connected with, so powerfully, that it also saddened them. The catchphrase for this year's observance, was "Every Child Matters". They accepted the harsh reality of this time in history, but also walked away from this learning, more knowledgeable, empowered, and more aware of the plight of Indigenous people today, knowing also that they too, matter.
- Mr. Kalani Aka -