Truth & Reconciliation
The KPDSB is a system that is committed to ongoing learning and demonstrating through our actions that Truth and Reconciliation guide the work that we do every day for our students, their families and our communities. In the fall of 2021, KPDSB Trustees passed a motion to induct a new policy and procedure entitled Indigenous Education, which outlines our commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) Calls to Action, the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the need for anti-racism efforts in all of our schools as well as other obligations we have to our students and stakeholders.
As a part of our 2020-2021 Board Action Plan for Indigenous Education, we increased the number of Elders, Knowledge Keepers and community members in our schools. We held three board-wide book studies (for staff and students) using Indigenous text and connecting with the authors themselves. We supported learning in several remote First Nations for students learning virtually by supporting the hiring of Indigenous Student Tutors. We engaged with language speakers and technology to help build language acquisition and preservation in several communities.
There was an increase of land-based learning opportunities for students in both elementary and secondary, including inviting Elders and Knowledge Keepers to share teachings, culture and traditional knowledge with our students. This fall, we began offering cultural competency training for all staff through the Four Seasons of Reconciliation and also through other system school-based learning opportunities. We also onboarded a process to further support our students using Jordan’s Principle funding.
Indigenous Education Lead, Len Gardner, focused on building Culturally Responsive and Relevant Pedagogy in schools by leading student voice circles in three elementary schools and will continue this work as we move into 2022.
At KPDSB, we believe in being humble learners to ensure that we are always following the mantra, “Nothing about us, without us.” We are grateful for the amazing partnerships in our schools and communities as well as for the guidance of our Indigenous Education Advisory Committee as we continue to work hard each day to ensure the needs of Indigenous students are met and that we are helping guide our communities in ReconcilAction.
In February 2021, KPDSB began its rollout of substituting all ENG3U classes with NBE3U. The NBE3U curriculum, English: Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Voices, Grade 11, will support all learners in various ways. While the curriculum remains focused on building essential English skills, it also emphasizes FNMI perspectives, voices, and ways of learning.
The rollout was comprehensive, including board-wide professional development and professional learning communities. Indicators of success include the commitment of all KPDSB secondary schools to substitute Grade 11 University (ENG3U) and Grade 11 College (ENG3C) courses with NBE3U and NBE3C.
The passion and commitment of many of the educators involved in this rollout are evident in the ideas shared by students in classrooms. Students participated in this work as they began to understand why this change is necessary and their integral role in reconciliation work moving forward.
At the beginning of NBE3U at Beaver Brae Secondary School, one student reflects that they “believe that this is a good change because I myself would like to learn more about indigenous writer[s] other than all the Shakespeare and so on, I myself am metis, and I have not learned a lot about it because it doesn’t get brought up much in my home or at school. Being able to learn more about this is an advantage, in my personal opinion. My grandpa was in a residential school but I was so young when he passed I never got to talk to him about it, I was always interested in that but I know that it is a sensitive topic for some to talk about.”
A Sioux North High School student comments on his own learning after reading Richard Wagamese, saying: “Reconciliation means to create harmony. In Richard’s words ‘you create harmony with truth, and you create truth with humility.’ I can agree with Richard Wagamese’s definition of reconciliation as I believe that to reconcile you first have to be at peace with what has happened… In Wagamese’s definition he also speaks about truth and humility. The truth aspect of that definition is finally starting to be revealed as we learn more and more about the truth of residential schools.”
On her final exam, a Red Lake District High School student noted: “Indigenous writers demonstrate how they have endured in the face of hardship without giving up. However, the biggest lesson that I learned from this course was that by taking the time to learn about the Canadian Indigenous experience I am able to be a part of the change to better Canada.”
Teachers were asked if the rollout of this curriculum was valuable to their practice. When asked what learning experiences they found most valuable, responses included, “Kevin Lamoreux – honestly no words can describe the power of this individual. He spoke openly and truthfully and gave us the confidence to educate our students. I enjoyed being a student and listening to Kevin’s lectures,” and, “This professional development has encouraged me to start my learning journey into a new course by diving deep into the curriculum and focusing on backwards planning.”
As teachers shared work in the monthly sessions, it became evident that collaboration and professional development had an immediate impact on practice. As a BBSS teacher shared, following a session with Kevin Lamoureux, she presented her classroom expectations using the language of his Circle of Care:
- We cultivate a spirit of generosity when…
- We cultivate a spirit of belonging when…
- We cultivate a spirit of independence when…
- We cultivate a spirit of mastery when…
This work was teacher-driven and focused. The impacts exceeded substituting NBE for ENG as educators came together to address both teacher practices and educator belief systems in teaching and learning.
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
KPDSB schools participated in the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Below you will find examples of the work done in our schools to recognize this important day.
Beaver Brae Secondary School – Students and staff participated in various activities and events for a full week of learning, support and movement towards action for students, staff and families. Numerous resources were provided to support staff in lessons and lesson planning through a planning committee at the school. Information about the week and a few resources for their own learning journeys were shared with families as well. A culmination assembly and all-school feast was held on September 30.
Evergreen Public School – Evergreen hosted an open house on September 28, with the goal of including families in the school’s reconciliation work. Information was provided on residential schools and reconciliation at the open house. Families participated in a book walk for the book It’s a Mitig! where families could learn some Ojibwe vocabulary in a simple English story. Families could also write a message of reconciliation on an orange heart to be strung with other hearts and displayed in the school hallway.
Keewatin Public School – Keewatin offered various teaching and learning opportunities, including:
- Students walked around Keewatin to place rock art around the community (rock art involves painting small rocks orange and writing “Every Child Matters” on them).
- Students made feathers and included why each child matters on them for a hallway display.
- Students prticipated in read aloud stories centred around Truth and Reconciliation (When We Were Alone; Shi-shi-etko—to name a few).
- Students participated in outdoor learning/connecting with nature by finding long grass and trying/learning to braid and baking bannock over a fire.
- Students watched the CBC gem, Molly of Denali, Grampa’s Drum, followed by hand drumming.
- Students coloured “Every Child Matters” mindfulness colouring sheets.
- Students watched and discussed CBC Kids videos Phyllis Webstad Orange Shirt Day presentation.
- Students participated in read aloud stories/discussions like Fatty Legs and others.
- Students participated in virtual Truth and Reconciliation sessions during the Conference by National Center for Truth and Reconciliation, University of Manitoba.
- Staff used lesson plans for Orange Shirt Day by the Manitoba Teacher Society.
- Students participated in the rock art project.
King George VI Public School & Sioux Narrows Public School – Staff planned various learning activities via YouTube videos, using a slide deck condensed version of 10 Days of Truth and Reconciliation (shared reading activities, read alouds, learning about Phyllis Webstad, creating posters, doing orange shirt activities and recognizing something important about themselves). As a school community, families were encouraged to learn more about T&R and wear orange shirts on the 30th.
Valleyview Public School – Students and staff participated in various activities, including:
- Orange shirt writing activity Je compte parce que…, which we was turned into a display for the fence outside of the school.
- Students laminated and displayed orange shirt self-portraits, which is part of the shared writing activity Je suis important parce que.
- Students watched a video clip from the Orange Shirt Day website and staff facilitated classroom and small group discussions.
Red Lake Area
Ear Falls Public School – The topic of school land acknowledgment was read daily on announcements, including discussions on wearing orange shirts and why they are worn. All students in the school wrote why they matter, which was posted in the halls of the school. Students also participated in in the Projects of Hearts. The story was read to classes followed by the hearts being planted in the front yard. This project will be redisplayed in the spring. Individual age-appropriate class activities regarding truth and reconciliation were also planned.
Golden Learning Centre – GLC included land acknowledgements on the morning announcements each day in relation to the school’s environmental stewardship focus. Circle learning opportunities on what advocacy looks like also took place. Intermediate students participated in the truth and reconciliation online learning webinars.
Red Lake-Madsen Public School – Students and staff took part in a school-wide reconciliation activity to inspire children, in an artistic way, to consider what reconciliation means to them and begin to imagine a united future for all Canadians regardless of age, culture or religion. Administration read a rock painting inspiration from Chief Joseph, the Ambassador for Reconciliation Canada and a member of the National Assembly of First Nations Elders Council. Chief Joseph encourages children to write a hopeful or inspiring word using a colour or symbol meaningful to each of them. Rocks (that fit in the palm, flat so that a word or symbol could be painted) were collected and painted and on September 30, students and staff walked around the Red Lake community to show support for reconciliation by placing the rocks wherever the students felt would be an appropriate place for their rock. As an extension to the rock activity, students were engaged in a writing activity to explain the symbol or words they painted on their rock.
Red Lake District High School – At RLDHS, the Grade 11 NBE3U class planned and presented a school-wide (virtual) assembly on September 30. In addition, each grade received content-specific teaching related to residential schools and truth and reconciliation during the week of September 27:
- ArcGIS residential school story map
- Blanket exercise at Centennial Park
- The importance of language and culture—mini-lessons, discussion and participating in Truth and Reconciliation Week video conference with this focus
- Treaty writing activity
- Knowledge transfer—elder and youth dialogues
- Reconciliation and Me (special APTN programming) and Orange Shirt Day celebration
Dryden High School – Students and staff participated in a variety of events, including:
- Orange Shirt Day contest with the winning orange shirt featured in the student square
- Grab-and-go bannock and soup in the student square
- Mr. Napish and Tyson Williams drumming in front of the school with a fire pit
- Sally Bunting, community Elder, presented to students and staff
- Staff at the school joined the TRC event
- A letter was sent home to all families regarding the content being discussed on Orange Shirt Day and the importance of the day
Lillian Berg Public School – Lillian Berg held several events leading up to the National Holiday for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day:
- Survivors from McIntosh Indian Residential School were invited to speak to the Grade 5/6 and 7/8 classes
- Staff and students attended a feast held at McIntosh Indian Residential School site.
- Students participated in rock painting in memory of the students who attended the McIntosh Indian Residential School and the rocks were brought to the memorial site later in the week.
- The entire school participated in Orange Shirt Day activities, including decorating hearts for their Lillian Berg Heart Garden in memory of the children who died at residential school.
New Prospect Public School – Students engaged in writing, drawing, and creating work to show what they have learned about Canada’s residential school history. The student workpieces remained in the atrium and were posted to the NPS Facebook page. Staff ensured that students’ art and writing connected to their deep learning in the classroom and were not just stand-alone pieces. Reconciliation Week was honoured through this learning, the gallery, and by wearing orange shirts on Orange Shirt Day.
Open Roads Public School – Open Roads students and staff joined the Dryden Area Anti-Racism Network (DAARN) event for the day. The entire school joined the community parade and carried All Kids Matter flag, handmade hearts, orange flags and T-shirts. There was also an official opening at the school involving a local Elder.
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
In May of 2021, Emma Gardner, Indigenous Student Trustees, worked closely with Board staff and community partners to offer a variety of sessions to students attending Dryden High School and Red Lake District High School on the topic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
A total of four different sessions were offered in two different time slots. Sessions offered included:
- Personal Protection and Online Safety
- Bear Clan Initiative
- Human Trafficking
- Talking about the Social Issue of MMIWG
We are incredibly proud of Emma and the work that she did to make this possible.
Secret Path Week and Walk for Wenjack
We are proud to have all KPDSB schools registered as Downie Wenjack Legacy Schools. In fact, Crolancia Public School in Pickle Lake was the first legacy school in Canada! The Legacy Schools program is a national initiative to engage, empower and connect students and educators to further reconciliation through awareness, education and action (#reconciliACTION).
Secret Path Week is a national movement commemorating the legacies of Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack, and takes place annually from October 17-22. This is a meaningful week as October 17th and 22nd respectively mark the dates that Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack joined the spirit world.
The Downie Wenjack Foundation calls on all people in Canada to use Secret Path Week to answer Gord Downie’s call to action, to “Do Something” by creating a reconciliACTION and furthering the conversation about the history of residential schools.
In additional to participating in a variety of classroom learning activities, KPDSB students and staff are encouraged to Walk for Wenjack during Secret Path Week to honour Chanie’s legacy and raise awareness of the true history of residential schools.
Several KPDSB schools participated in Walk for Wenjack activities including Lillian Berg Publc School in Vermilion Bay who’s students attempted (and some completed!) a 30km walk from the McIntosh Indian Residential School site to the school. Red Lake District High School also participated with students there walking a combined total of 600km!
Lillian Berg Public School Award
Lillian Berg Public School was honoured to learn that the Grade 7/8 Class of 2020-21 would be awarded the Spirt Bear Award by the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada. The awards honoured the work of four groups of youth across Canada who are demonstrating reconciliation in action to ensure First Nations, Métis, and Inuit young people have the same opportunities as all other children. The class’ work to help with grounds maintenance at McIntosh IRS Memorial Site, their 30km Walk for Wenjack, and their numerous actions to stand-up and support First Nations youth and their communities were just some of the reasons this amazing group of young people were awarded this prize.
Thank you to the Grade 7/8 for being leaders not only in their school but in our community and showing us how to walk the path towards reconciliation. Along with the recognition, the class was also awarded $500 which they have decided to use half towards future grounds up-keep at McIntosh IRS Memorial Site and half for something fun for students at LBS.
Lillian Berg was also awarded the Leonard Skye Building Bridges Award in June of 2021. The award is presented by the Dryden Area Anti-Racism Network (DAARN) and recognizes individuals or organizations who promote cultural diversity, engages in educational activities to achieve respect and harmony, creates an atmosphere that assists in the elimination of racism and discrimination and fosters leadership to build a community where every person is valued. DAARN presented the award to the school for their efforts to clean up and maintain the McIntosh Indian Residential School site.