June 21 is celebrated as National Indigenous Day all across Canada. The day is full of festivities and fun – especially at Fox Run School.
Fox Run faculty spent many hours planning tons of activities that can not only educate our students about First Nations culture, but also to have some fun with friends and take a break from exams and studying.
Jane Atkins from Chinook’s Edge School Division came to Fox Run to teach our Grade 7 students about the history of the Aboriginal people of Canada.
The presentation is referred to as a Blanket Ceremony – one in which students stood on blankets that represent First Nations land. In the ceremony, Atkins taught students about the many hardships the indigenous peoples of Canada faced – such as disease and residential schools.
The goal of the ceremony is to teach children about the formation of Canada from the point of view of the First Nations people – which is very different from the European point of view.
“I want the students to understand what happened to the Aboriginals and have empathy for their struggles,” Jane told us.
Jane has been travelling all around Albertan schools teaching students about the history of this land and the hardships that the Aboriginal people had to deal with, for many years.
She teaches students to have empathy towards the First Nations people because they are what shaped Canada into being what it is today. Jane elaborated on that topic, saying at the tim, the Government of Canada was too forceful in taking Aboriginal land – which caused many feuds between them.
In the Grade 7 social studies curriculum, it teachers the history of Canada from the Europeans point of view and not the Aboriginals point of view. So when Jane – a former Grade 7 social studies teacher – started teaching this program, it changed her as a person.
She told us what we are taught in the textbook is devastatingly different from what actually happened to the indigenous peoples of Canada.
To this day, there are still schools for Aboriginal children, but they do not receive the same funding as our public schools. Each province has about 15 reserve schools, each one receiving a very small amount of funding from the federal government. These schools are very poor and most of them are in bad condition.
“The presentation was so shocking when we learned about everything our Aboriginal citizens of Canada had to go through for many years,” one Grade 7 explained.
The Grade 7s weren’t the only ones to receive a special presentation. The Grade 8 students were shown clips about the residential schools that forced aboriginal children away from their families for years on end.
The videos were followed by a discussion about what all those children went through, and how it compares to our schools today.
They even got the special treat of taking a look at Gord Downie’s The Secret Path, which sheds light on residential schools and Canada’s path to reconciliation.