Seven Oaks School Division elementary students learn what it means to be allies in an era of truth and reconciliation – one log at a time.
As the Migiziiwazison Sacred Fire Camp celebrates its nine-month anniversary on the Manitoba Legislature’s East Lawn, grade 7 and 8 students collect donations to purchase wood so the flames can burn indefinitely in tribute to the Aboriginal children who never returned from residential schools.
Arthur E. Wright Community School is always looking for ways to build students’ capacity for cross-cultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect, Principal Harpreet Panag said.
Each morning before class, an administrator reads aloud a treaty acknowledgment in which she encourages students and staff to “be mindful of how we are contributing to truth and reconciliation today and every day.” “.
“We don’t want to walk in front or be behind. We want to walk beside – and that’s not just (something) we talk about. We follow that conversation here at this school,” she told the Free press.
“We don’t want to walk in front or be behind. We want to walk along the ‐ and it’s not just (something) we talk about. We follow this discourse here in this school. – Harpreet Panag, Principal of Arthur E. Wright Community School
Nearly 100 students from the K-8 building recently had the opportunity to speak and walk in the spirit of reconciliation.
On March 14, several school buses stopped at the Legislative Assembly so that students could participate in a morning smudging, led by teaching assistant Rachel Fitzner, and learn teachings about fire from camp attendees. They later marched as a group to The Forks with handmade signs bearing the words “Every Child Matters”.
“Seeing how firefighters are always there, 24/7, it really shows how much impact people can have on others,” said Miyah Elomina, an 8th grader.
Grade 7 student Jordyn McConnell said she was taught to use tobacco, an offering to deceased people, and cedar, which is believed to guide spirits home, in a fire while praying in a teepee.
Jordyn said the students also learned that the camp uses a cord of wood (around 700 pieces) per week and is always on the lookout for extra logs. The visit prompted the students to become eager to teach their younger peers about camp “and why we as allies should help them keep the fire going,” she added, noting the current AE Wright student-led fundraising initiative.
Since fall, teachers have been discussing planning a field trip to the downtown site to learn more about the alliance and emphasize that Indigenous children matter every day — not just September 30, the national day. of truth and reconciliation.
With COVID-19 restrictions lifted and the encampment making headlines because authorities dismantled it, the topic has come up again this month.
No matter where the fire will burn in the future, whether on the grounds of the Legislative Assembly or elsewhere, Daniel Militano, a grade 7-8 teacher, said the school community wanted to ensure that a flame is lit. Militano said his goal is to raise $2,000 for three ropes to help do just that.