The students and staff of Bow Valley High School will not be in school on Friday, September 30, the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
However, students have been busy leading up to Friday learning more about the meaning behind the day. Teacher Jenisse Galloway says it has been the students who have led the discussion on what needs to be told and how they visualize the recognition should be. Galloway says, “It was some of our Indigenous students that were very keen and very adamant to know exactly what was going on, and how things were going to be presented, and who wanted to be involved.” Galloway says the way things are unfolding is exciting because the school has always wanted the efforts to be student-led and run, “So the fact that we had some kids and especially some of our Indigenous kids wanting to get involved was really encouraging. We've had a group of students who have come out and who have had some really good ideas about how they want things to look for Truth and Reconciliation week this year.”
Galloway says one of the things that the students voiced was that there were things that have not yet been shared in terms of information about residential schools. Facts about day-to-day conditions that were suffered by those that attended the schools. They wanted to create a visible message for the community to see that BVHS is engaged and has come together to talk about the topics they felt were important. Galloway says, “One of the things that they were really keen to do was to have some kind of installment or some kind of symbolic representation of the work that we are doing.” One activity that was undertaken was that each period one class was given a stuffed animal to represent a child lost to residential schools. Each class was then asked to write a pledge or statement of support to put on the stuffed animal. The stuffed animals and pledges are now on display in front of the school as a symbolic visual reminder for everyone to see. The students want to clearly show the community that BVHS is acknowledging the history of residential schools.
Another example of BVHS working towards Truth and Reconciliation saw a group of students designing an “Every Child Matters” logo and creating shirts with it. They then sold the shirts to fundraise for the Eagle’s Nest Stoney Family Shelter in Mînî Thnî and also to get more orange shirts out into the school community.
Students are being provided an opportunity to anonymously submit questions on anything they may still feel confused about or don’t quite understand and then a small committee is tasked with finding the answers to the questions.
A student suggested that classmates watch the film “Indian Horse” as a class and while at times it was difficult to watch, it was agreed by teachers and students that it was a powerful representation of what the experience would have been like for a child attending a residential school. Galloway says, “It really helps people to better understand the realities of what that experience would have been like.”
The path to Truth and Reconciliation will take time and work but the students and staff at BVHS are taking to the task. Galloway says there is a constant need for education. “As much as people may feel like they know these things, it’s always valuable to keep going back and looking deeper into what we can draw from that learning and how we can allow that learning to build our sense of empathy and compassion for everyone in our community.”