It was a group of students that asked for Orange Shirt Day , Sept. 30 — a day commemorating indigenous survivors of residential schools — to be lengthened to a week.
This week those same students, part of the Indigenous Student Leadership Group at St. Patrick’s catholic secondary school, will lead their peers through events to inform and reflect on the troubled history of government-funded residential schools across Canada.
Residential schools were designed to assimilate indigenous children, stripping them of their culture and identity.
“I came from Walpole Island,” said Susie Kicknosway Jones, 82, who was taken to a residential school when she was only four years old. “I worked after I got out of the school and I never returned to my home reserve.”
Kicknosway Jones spoke to hundreds of students at St. Patrick’s during a livestreamed interview Monday morning, the first of many events planned through the week.
Other events include hoop dancing and trivia.
“I’ve lived in a city my entire life,” said Tariq Saddleback, a student and member of the Samson Cree in Alberta. “I want to learn more and I also want to educate others.”
“I think for me it’s all about respect and learning,” added Niamh Ellwood, another student. “These were real people with real stories and real history.” Relatively new #sccdsb student Tariq Saddleback on why he joined his school’s Indigenous Student Leadership Group this year
Tariq is a member of the Samson Cree, from Alberta #OrangeShirtDay2018 pic.twitter.com/clF4HeWV0S — Lou Pin (@LoupInSarnia) September 24, 2018 Saddleback and Ellwood are part of the 16-student Indigenous Student Leadership Group. Though some members of the group are not indigenous, all have an interest in learning the history of indigenous peoples, something Kicknosway Jones says has been missing from the school curriculum.
Effort has been made to incorporate that history in recent years.
“Our story is important to the founding of Canada. Right now the history starts when the ships landed and it doesn’t start there. We were already here,” Kicknosway Jones said.
More than 500 children were taken from Walpole Island including Kicknosway Jones’s two older brothers. Leo Kicknosway, the oldest, died in a residential school before his 17th birthday.
Orange Shirt Day started in British Columbia in 2013, and is based on the bright orange shirt taken away from a 6-year-old Phyllis Webstad, from the Canoe Creek Indian Band in British Columbia. The day is recognized across Canada.
The St. Clair Catholic School Board has taken part the last three years. This year, seven schools — two secondary schools and five elementary schools — will reflect school-wide, each in their own way. Individual classes in other schools will also take part.
Students have been forced to be more creative this year, as Orange Shirt Day falls on a Sunday.
“In our other secondary school at (Ursuline College Chatham), Susie was part of student learning last week,” said Cortnee Goure, indigenous education leader for the catholic school board. “Their recognition for Orange Shirt day is Oct. 2 and between last week and then they’re raising awareness across the school.” Susie Kicknosway Jones, a residential school survivor, was at St. Patrick’s today to talk with students about her experience. Kicknosway Jones’s brother, Leo, died while in a residential school. Today students at St. Pat’s remember him and others #OrangeShirtDay2018 pic.twitter.com/ghfyohvBuB — Lou Pin (@LoupInSarnia) September 24, 2018 More than 200 students in the St. Clair Catholic District School Board self-identify as indigenous.The Indigenous Student Leadership Group at St. Patrick’s will continue through the rest of the school year, giving students a chance to apply what they learn.For Saddleback it’s a way to further reconnect with his culture.“My great-grandpa, he got me […]
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