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Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Stories of Truth & Reconciliation

Written by Rebecca Forchuk, Director of Staff Development

           As we begin our journey as a division towards Truth & Reconciliation, I am anticipating it to be emotional yet reflective; not only will it enlighten us as a community, but will be one of those never-forget-life-changing-so-thankful-we-went-there-voyages that will change us not only as educators, but as people.    I saw evidence of that today at FAA (Foothills Administrator’s Association) when Dar, the FNMI Success Coach, took us back through time from colonization, to the Red River Rebellion, to residential schools and then back to 2016 where the stories of students unfold in front of us everyday.  

            While listening to the stories of residential school survivors in the documentary Stolen Children, we learned the dark secrets never told in history books about the impacts on those children who attended them as well as the seven, yes - seven, generations of people who came afterwards.  The intergenerational trauma – the loss of identity, belonging and culture - the cycle of abuse, the normal for many families, the fear of educational institutions and white people, the struggle with whether I am “white enough or brown enough”...all provided new points of view I had not considered before or felt with my heart. Until today.  I sat frozen listening to direct quotes from the Canadian government at that time explaining the “Indian problem” and justifying actions. I am left to hope it was because they did not know any better.  That is the only comfort I can give myself because otherwise, it’s too disturbing a thought...  

            I walk away from today, from Dar’s stories, knowledge, passion and wisdom more reflective than I have been in a long time; moved to the very core of who we are as people, as a community and as educators of all children.  I think about the importance of building compassion and empathy in order to relate to people who have a different story from our own, especially one seeped in fear, abuse and poverty. 

            Reconciliation starts with understanding, and understanding begins with building relationships: To listen more. To ask questions more.  To love more.  We may not be able to help an entire culture but we start with one child, one student, one family, one relationship.  We “look with different eyes and look with our heart a little more” (Darlene Cox, 2016).   As Madeline Dion Stout eloquently said, “I’d like us all to be part of a team that really makes a lasting difference for not only residential school survivors but the other little children who are having difficulties today” (Stolen Children, 2016).

            By their stories, I can’t help but think beyond students who are First Nations, Metis, or Inuit but to encompass all of our students.  Everyone comes to our classroom and schools with a story that already has prior chapters that describe their struggles, triumphs and characters who have either been in conflict with or in support of them.  So, the question we need to ask ourselves, as educators, is what part of the story will we play in the lives of our students?  The choice is ours to make. 

**For more resources check out the links on the right under FNMI**

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