Image: Reconciliation Post by TFN Artist Karl Morgan, located at the School Board Office
This article appeared in the Delta Optimist on September 30, 2023: https://www.delta-optimist.com/local-news/delta-school-district-continues-to-help-students-learn-and-reflect-7601229
By Karen McDonald, Indigenous Success Coordinator, Indigenous Education Department, Delta School District
For almost a decade, students and staff in the Delta School District have recognized Orange Shirt Day on September 30th by wearing orange inspired by Phyllis Webstad’s personal experience of arriving at the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in 1973. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is now recognized on the same day. September was chosen because it has painful memories for Indigenous families as a time when their children were taken away to Residential Schools.
The Indigenous Education Team is often asked by staff, “What can we do to teach about reconciliation as part of the BC curriculum?” In response, the Department has been providing ongoing professional learning opportunities and posts resources on their website: Cedar, Salmon, Spindle Whorls (https://deltalearns.ca/indigenouseducation/). As well, Cultural Mentor Kaanáx̱ Kuwóox̱ʼ, Nathan Wilson, visits classrooms and school assemblies to talk with students about the impact of Residential Schools in a respectful, age-appropriate way.
This new generation of students is much more aware of the impact of Colonialism and Canada’s shared history with Indigenous Peoples and our hope is that the conversations are brought home to the dinner table to be shared and unpacked with families.
If you’re wondering what you can do, here are a few simple steps towards reconciliation:
– Discover whose traditional territory you’re living or working on and then learn about those Nations. Both the Tsawwassen First Nation (https://tsawwassenfirstnation.com/) and Musqueam Indian Band (https://www.musqueam.bc.ca/) websites have information about who they are and their histories.
– Find out the importance of the celebrations for TFN’s Treaty Day on April 3rd (https://tsawwassenfirstnation.com/governance-overview/treaty-and-constitution/) and Musqueam Day (https://www.musqueam.bc.ca/guerin-decision/ ) on November 1st.
– Read books written by Indigenous authors. Share what you have learned with friends and family.
Check out the 94 Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action (https://ehprnh2mwo3.exactdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf ) Ask yourself if there is one Call that you can commit to acting on.
– As many of us celebrate the back-to-school season, stop, and reflect on why it may not be easy for everyone. Find out more about Phyllis Webstad’s story (https://orangeshirtday.org/phyllis-story/)
As Justice Murray Sinclair said, “Education is what got us here, and education is what will get us out.” If we open our hearts and minds to learning and reflecting on how we want to see our country’s values reflected in the future, we can join our children in becoming leaders in this change.
Cultural Mentor Kaanáx̱ Kuwóox̱ʼ, Nathan Wilson