The Downie Wenjack Fund Legacy School program is an opportunity for classrooms/schools to lead the movement in awareness of the history and impact of the Residential School System on Indigenous Peoples. Legacy Schools are provided a Secret Path Toolkit and educational support resources to engage students, staff and school communities as a catalyst for reconciliation in Canada. The toolkits are being well used in our schools, with staff engaging students in a wide variety of activities related to the book, the Secret Path
Staff and students at Crolancia Public School in Pickle Lake, and the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board, were honoured to become the first Legacy School in Canada through the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (or Downie Wenjack Fund). During a special assembly during the 2018-2019 school year, Principal Holly Szumowski announced the school’s plans to honour the Downie Wenjack Fund, including the dedication of two benches outside of the school, the dedication of the school’s Native as a Second Language (NSL) classroom as the Legacy Classroom, and the renaming of the school’s end of year NSL award as the Charlie Wenjack Award.
Since that announcement, we are proud to say that all KPDSB schools have since registered as Legacy Schools, making us the third school board in the country to have all schools registered.
Students and staff at Crolancia Public School have accomplished many of their goals only a year after the announcement, including creating an outdoor learning area for everyone in the school. Students worked together to build and install benches and a fire pit for the new space. To learn more about Crolancia’s Downie Wenjack Legacy School journey, check out the video below, created by students and staff at the school.
When our teacher Harriet Visitor shared her work, connection, and involvement with the Downie Wenjack Fund, I knew that our school had to be a part of this movement. Being named the first Legacy School is a wonderful honour, however the real work begins now. In the spirit of reconciliation, we must all continue to not only share Chanie’s story, but listen, respect, and respond to all survivors’ stories. As Justice Sinclair said, ‘Education is what got us here, and education is what will get us out.’Principal Holly Szumowski, Crolancia Public School
Orange Shirt Day - October 30
Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity to create meaningful discussion about the effects of Residential Schools and the legacy they have left behind. It’s a national movement to recognize our shared history, and to honour those whose lives were forever changed in the spirit of hope and reconciliation for generations of children to come. Every child matters.
Orange Shirt Day 2019 was recognized across our Board in all of our schools and communities. The learning opportunities were vast, and included visits to the sites of former residential schools with survivors who shared their stories, classroom discussions and activities on the history and legacy of residential schools, and screenings of educational videos and documentaries.
New for Orange Shirt Day 2019 was the announcement of the KPDSB Orange Shirt Day T-shirt Design contest. Students were encouraged to create their own orange shirt designs and submit them to be considered for shirts for next school year. We received many creative and thoughtful designs, watch for the opportunity to purchase KPDSB Orange Shirts in the spring of 2020 for Orange Shirt Day 2020!
Treaties Recognition Week
Treaties Recognition Week is an opportunity for all Ontarians to gain a better understanding of treaties and treaty relationships, and how they have shaped the province. Treaties have played an integral part in the history and heritage of Ontario.
Treaties Recognition Week 2019 (November 4-8) began with an Opening Ceremony at Sioux North High School in Sioux Lookout. Local dignitaries and leaders joined the staff and students of Sioux North High School and Sioux Mountain Public School in kicking off the week with drumming, speeches and a feast, followed by traditional activities in both schools.
In addition to the numerous lessons and activities taking place in our schools throughout the week, students and staff also participated in Living Library presentations. Supported by the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs and Indigenous partners, Living Library presentations provide an opportunity for Indigenous speakers to share their lived experiences and knowledge about treaties in general, local treaties and the treaty relationship to students from Kindergarten to Grade 12. We wish to thank Elders Robert Greene and Don Jones for sharing their knowledge with our students and staff.
Treaties Recognition Week ended with a closing ceremony at Evergreen Public School in Kenora. We were honoured to welcome Ogichidaa (Grand Chief) Francis Kavanaugh of Grand Council Treaty 3, Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox of Nishnawbe Aski-Nation, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford and other delegates to the event. See the video on Treaties Recognition Week events in our schools below.
The work of our Board to recognize Treaties Recognition Week was featured by the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, click here for more information.
A Reconciliation Book Study
What does it mean to involve all stakeholders in your board’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action? At the KPDSB, it means inviting all employees to participate in a board-wide book study, offering an opportunity to learn, reflect and consider their own understanding of reconciliation.
Readers had two unique opportunities to meet with their fellow book study colleagues. We hosted four group discussions by geographic area. These evening gatherings were hosted at local restaurants where staff gathered to discuss the ideas in a non-academic setting. As the book study drew to a close, we were honoured to welcome the author, Tanya Talaga to an event in Dryden. With readers gathered from throughout our school board, Talaga shared her thoughts and participated in a question and answer forum. Seeing employees from all sectors gathered together was a highlight of the book study as it emphasized the shared responsibility and collective efforts of working towards reconciliation.
Employees were asked if they would like to join their colleagues in reading Canadian author Tanya Talaga’s book, All Our Relations. Individual copies were purchased and participants were invited to take part in an evening book study, contribute their learning via social media platforms and share their thoughts through posed online questions.
With over 200 participants from all employee groups, the study fostered open, honest conversations that took place throughout the three months and many participants spoke of impromptu discussions that were spurred through their participation in the book study. Because all employee groups were represented, these conversations occurred between early childhood educators, administrators, educators, custodial staff, administrative assistants, office staff and the board’s senior administration staff. Reflecting on the experience, our readers provided positive feedback, but this reflection encompassed both the goals of the book study and the emerging thoughts of all our readers’ as the book study drew to a close:
If a subject is thought-provoking enough to inspire consideration, there is a significant chance that the road ahead is unclear. Reconciliation stirs up emotion and makes a person re-evaluate his or her beliefs. It makes them question what has gotten them to this point, and how from here, they will move forward. Sometimes it is difficult, for even the most genuine and thoughtful people to examine and understand their feelings of guilt, anger, or apathy. For some, it is a struggle to identify the role that they will play, or without even realizing, the role that they currently play in finding the way forward. I believe we as educators are all looking for a solution, a better way, the right way. A way that will support all of the students and families that we love and support. For those who are open to finding a better way, “All Our Relations” has allowed us a snapshot into a haunting past. It has allowed the reader an opportunity for introspection. It challenges our community as educators to continue on our path forward, together.
Powley Day marks the most important Métis Rights recognition since the days of Louis Riel. It is celebrated every September 19 to acknowledge the sacrifices and contributions of the Powley family and the landmark decision in R. v. Powley [September 19, 2003]. The Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) led the defense throughout the various levels of the court providing political and financial support to the Powley family. The Powley’s case was identified as a test case to bring forward Métis rights, specifically harvesting rights, which had been denied by the Ontario government. The Métis Nation Council (MNC) as the National representative Métis body intervened at the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. The Métis won unanimously at each level of court proceedings. The Crown appealed each decision right up to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Powley Day 2019 was recognized by our schools across our Board area. Students and staff shared in various learning activities and class discussions about who the Métis people are, watched documentaries about the meaning of Powley Day and the history of the day, participated in Métis art and sash activities, and joined Métis flag raising ceremonies.
Indigenous Student Supports
NAN/KPDSB School Support Partnership
The NAN/KPDSB School Support Partnership first began in September, 2016, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Nishnawbe Aski Nation and the Keewatin Patricia District School Board. We provide various supports to individual First Nation schools, with a focus on working “collaboratively to help design and promote strategies to equip First Nation students with the self-confidence and educational opportunities required to be successful in reaching their educational goals”.
During the 2019-2020 school year, the following seven First Nations will participate in the school support program:
- Bearskin Lake First Nation
- Fort Severn First Nation
- North Spirit Lake First Nation
- Marten Falls First Nation
- Mattagami First Nation
- Mishkeegogamang First Nation
- Webequie First Nation
The NAN/KPDSB School Support Partnership activities focus on the following areas:
- Principal Mentoring/Coaching
- New Teacher Induction Program
- Implementation of the Mental Health Champion Program
The KPDSB principal mentor/coach collaborates with the NAN principals to provide opportunities for them to develop the knowledge and skills needed to:
- Implement high impact leadership practices to ensure that the everyday actions of staff are focused on improving student outcomes.
- Utilize instructional leadership practices that encourage exemplary teacher practice, while setting targets to improve student learning.
- Create and implement effective school improvement plans based on student and staff needs, including culturally-relevant programming.
- Develop a collaborative professional learning environment in which staff work continuously to improve their practice to meet individual student needs.
- Support teacher learning through ongoing feedback and the effective use of the teacher performance appraisal process.
The KPDSB Principal Mentor/Coach works with the NAN principals and new teachers to support the implementation of the New Teacher Induction Program. The NAN NTIP teachers are given opportunities to participate in professional learning sessions, and teacher mentor experiences, facilitated by the staff at the Keewatin Patricia District School Board. Successful teacher candidates receive NTIP Accreditation on the Ontario Teacher Certificates.
The Mental Health Champion Program was recently introduced to the seven NAN schools and focuses on training initiatives and networking opportunities that support capacity building, including an awareness of mental health and wellness issues in schools.
KAIROS Blanket Exercise
In 1996, the Aboriginal Rights Coalition worked with Indigenous elders and teachers to develop an interactive way of learning the history most Canadians are never taught. The Blanket Exercise was the result; it has since been offered thousands of times and the fourth edition was released in 2016. The Kairos Blanket Exercise website provides a comprehensive overview of the exercise.
The Blanket Exercise is based on participatory popular education methodology and the goal is to build understanding about our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada by walking through pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance. Everyone is actively involved as they step onto blankets that represent the land, and into the role of First Nations, Inuit and later Métis peoples. By engaging on an emotional and intellectual level, the Blanket Exercise effectively educates and increases empathy.
The Blanket Exercise is followed by a talking circle which allows participants to consolidate their learning, identify their emotions and next steps in their personal reconciliation journey.
KAIROS Blanket Exercise at KPDSB
KPDSB is committed to ensuring that this learning opportunity is experienced by all staff. In May of 2019 our DOE signed a five year cooperation agreement with KAIROS Canada. In June of 2019 KPDSB did a call for facilitators to be trained in order to lead the facilitation of the KAIROS Blanket Exercise across the system. We had an overwhelming response and later that month had 27 members from across our communities and departments trained.
Participants completed the training, supported by Elder Kathy McIvor. The facilitators training was emotional, however left the group energized to bring this teaching tool to staff, students and community stakeholders.
By facilitating the KAIROS Blanket exercise with all staff , we support staff to deepen their understanding of our Colonial History, the intergenerational impacts of the Canadian residential school system and recognize the strength, resilience and leadership of our Indigenous peoples of Canada.
As of November 1st 2019, The Principals, Vice Principals, Managers and Senior Administration have all participated in the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, along with 5 out of 6 Secondary School’s staff and 9 out of 14 Elementary Schools.
Secondary Students in Ignace were the first to experience KAIROS, and provided valuable feedback to the facilitation team who are developing pre teaching and post teaching resources as well as a roll out strategy for students across the KPDSB. For our learning we include local Elders, and this process has helped to connect our schools to more community based Elders and Knowledge Keepers.
KPDSB is proud of this work, which has led to a deeper understanding of our Canadian and Local history and the intergenerational impacts of colonialism. We are developing empathy with our staff and students as we work towards our goals for reconciliation.