Red Deer students will recognize the history of Canada’s Indigenous populations on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday.
At St. Patrick’s Community School, where a teepee has been erected, Grade 4 teacher Tom West was eager to celebrate the teachings of the teepee and the Cree language.
“I’m really happy to share with students the Cree language that I’m currently learning, … , to pass on some of the words and syllabics so they can become quite familiar with them so they can see that it is still a language that is spoken, and try to work our way towards learning more about the different cultures,” said West in a Facebook video as he talked about the importance of knowledge and reconciliation.
Ryan Sawula, associate superintendent of curriculum at Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, said Thursday will start with live streaming a Treaty and Métis flag celebration to all its classrooms.
“Our focus is to make it a day of learning for all 10,000 students. We’ve got a variety of activities happening at the schools throughout the day,” Sawula said.
A six-week reconciliation challenge with Red Deer Catholic families will also get underway to raise awareness in the community.
Sawula said connecting with Indigenous families and elders on a direction forward is also part of the plan, in addition to seeking feedback on the division’s approach to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
For many years staff and students at Red Deer Catholic and Red Deer Public Schools have both participated in Orange Shirt Day to remember the victims of the residential schools.
“Our schools have a longstanding commitment to commemorating Orange Shirt Day. With students and staff in class on Sept. 30, it will enhance the teaching, learning and understanding of residential schools and truth and reconciliation,” said Red Deer Public Schools superintendent Chad Erickson.
Nadette Agecoutay, program director at Red Deer Native Friendship Society, said the group appreciates the opportunity to work in partnership with Red Deer Public Schools on Thursday.
“This day is an opportunity to honour those who attended Indian residential schools and to remember those who did not survive,” Agecoutay said.
Students and staff will watch a video produced by Red Deer Public commemorating the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Lessons were also shared with teachers from the district’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit Learning Services team.
Extra support will be available for students and staff on Sept. 30 for those who need additional emotional support in dealing with the subject matter.