WillowWood Goes Orange
by Steve Taylor
September 30th, 2021, marked the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as one of its 94 calls to action, this day honours the survivors and victims of the residential school system, their families, and their communities. This public commemoration is a vital part of the reconciliation process in Canada as it deepens our collective awareness of this history and ensures ongoing reflection across the country for years to come.
At WillowWood, Orange Day provided teachers with a wonderful opportunity to educate our students and to come together as a community to discuss this painful aspect of Canadian history. Teachers raised awareness in several amazing and creative ways:
In the high school, Adam Harper’s classes participated in a spirited discussion which began with an introductory address by Hon. Murray Sinclair, before completing a guided reading of a graphic story entitled Home. Students then listened to a survivor's story and discussed how trauma has a generational impact and is often passed down.
International students in Rosie’s ESL program discussed the meaning of the colour orange and watched the video “Every Child Matters” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFTHHtRy8Do)
Jeff Ramage’s Civics class watched a video about the lobster/fisheries conflict in Nova Scotia and discussed the challenges facing the Indigenous people and the Fishery industry. His Music class watched a music video called "A Tribe Called Red R.E.D." (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MD8IK19aec) and discussed the powerful drumbeats of First Nation music.
Middle School students in Bryan's and Hilary's homerooms attended virtual presentations hosted by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Students learned about aspects of Indigenous culture, including the Red River Jig and Mikmaq storytelling traditions. One of the presentations was led by Phyllis Webstad, as she read chapters from her book about the tragic history and consequences of the Residential schools. In the Grade 7 class, the music of Susan Aglukark was examined and books that were written and drawn by Indigenous writers and artists (Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection and I Am Not a Number were added to the class bookshelf.
In the lower school, Jeff Ramage’s visual arts students built indigenous “birchbark canoes” out of recycled cardboard. Each canoe was decorated with indigenous symbols, such as water, the sun, feathers, birch bark, and animals. Students created these canoes to honour and help carry the spirits of the children who died in residential schools. A video is rumoured to be in the works. Stay tuned!
Lower school students also learned about Truth and Reconciliation through storybook reading, followed by a discussion “that led to many children realizing just how good they have it.” Messages of hope were created in heart form and students got to design their own paper orange T-shirts.
In order to move ahead as a cohesive population and to actualize the great promise of this country, we must remember our past and teach the lessons learned to our children, so that they can learn from our mistakes and build a better future.
Thank you to our incredible staff who made sure that WillowWood did its part.