National Day for Truth and Reconciliation falls on September 30 every year. It’s a day to commemorate those affected by Residential Schools in Canada and reflect on how we can participate in Truth and Reconciliation as a country, community, and as individuals.
What is reconciliation?
Reconciliation starts with educating ourselves on the complete history of Indigenous peoples living in Canada. When we understand how the past impacted – and continues to impact – Indigenous culture, we can begin restoring relationships and recovering lost cultural elements.
Every community and individual participates in their own Truth and Reconciliation journey aimed at honouring Indigenous ancestry, learning the truth about the history of this territory and building meaningful relationships with Indigenous peoples.
Learning about the past so we can restore the future
At the OCSB, our students engage in Indigenous education activities as early as Kindergarten. Students learn about Indigenous values, read books by Indigenous authors and participate in events hosted by Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers.
Last year, the OCSB made Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Voices the mandatory course for the Grade 11 English graduation requirement. This course focuses on Indigenous experiences, history and culture. OCSB students found this course valuable and shared some insight from their experiences with the curriculum.
How OCSB schools participate in Truth and Reconciliation
OCSB students and staff have come together to nurture the Indigenous communities within our schools and share Indigenous knowledge with students. Every year we reflect on and plan ways to continue to practice Truth and Reconciliation within our schools.
Students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 participate in a Land Acknowledgement every morning at OCSB schools. Grade 12 student, Abbey R., shared her insight on why these acknowledgments are an essential practice for Truth and Reconciliation. “I feel it’s important to know our roots to understand how Canada became what it is. The Land Acknowledgement tells how the land passed from Indigenous to non-Indigenous control.”
Abbey is one of the lead students of the Indigenous Student Association (ISA) at St. Francis Xavier High School. Their ISA initiated a conversation about the Land Acknowledgements and changed the placement of where they read the acknowledgment. “Previously, we read the acknowledgement before Oh Canada. That felt weird, so we put it in the middle hoping students would stay standing from Oh Canada – to the Land Acknowledgement – to the prayer. That way, we showcased, it’s just as important as the other parts of our morning announcements.”
The OCSB has also invested in outdoor classrooms within many schools that feature a written land acknowledgment and an explanation of the Medicine Wheel. All Saints High School built their “Legacy Garden” with Indigenous (Anishinaabe) culture in mind. Their sign, which explains the building and purpose of the garden space is written in Anishinaabemowin, English and French. Students already use these outdoor learning environments daily and are engaged with the Indigenous cultural elements we’ve added. We can honour and support Indigenous culture by cultivating opportunities to learn about Indigenous peoples and participate in Indigenous-centred activities within our schools.