This year at Collicutt, we've been focusing on the need for education on Aboriginal perspectives, including the history of residential schooling and its lasting impact, and the racism/colonialism that was behind it. Using children's literature was an entry point because it provided an age-appropriate, yet honest and poignant account told from a child's and Aboriginal perspective. "Shi-shi-etko" by Nicola I. Campbell, an aboriginal writer, tells the story of young girl and the time she spends with her loving family just days before she is taken away to residential school.
We intended for "Shi-shi-etko" to provide a jumping off point for learning about Aboriginal issues, residential school, racism and the inequities that exist in our communities today. The book was read aloud and explored in every class from grade 1 to 5. The response from children was one of overwhelming empathy and a sense of outrage and injustice. Student responses and questions illuminate what is essential learning about residential schools as a human rights and social justice issue:
"Why would their parents go to jail if their kids don't go to school?"
"Is this a true story? Why did they have to go away to school? They're supposed to be with their families."
"I would be scared and sad."
"How can we stop this from happening again?"
"Shi-shi-etko" sparked an on-going dialogue about social justice issues both at school and at home, where for some families, residential schooling continues to cast a long shadow. The kids in room 8 have been deeply concerned with the current First Nations water crisis, busy writing letters to their MPs and planning a non-violent protest to be held in the near future. They've visited the Seven Oaks circle garden and have been incorporating Aboriginal elements into their plans for outdoor classroom.
As a staff, the school-wide "Shi-shi-etko" inquiry has deepened our understanding of the effects residential schools. Children's emotional responses have opened our eyes to the rich possibilities that great literature can provide in planting the seeds for real social justice in the most grass-roots of places, our hearts.
At Collicutt School we are working every day to include Aboriginal perspectives into the daily teaching and learning in our classrooms. This year we endeavor to continue to:
- Have classroom activities which incorporate 7 teachings, medicine wheel, spirit buddies and sharing circles.
- Work with Artist in the School, KC Adams, who will model artistic expression of the 7 teachings during her residency at Collicutt at the end of February.
- Infuse Aboriginal perspectives into community events: Thanksgiving Feast, Artist in School, Snowday, Pre-School programs, and concerts.
- Continue the use of literature which incorporates aboriginal perspectives into curriculum topics.
For children's fiction on residential schooling, please see your local library for the following titles:
"Shi-shi-etko" by Nicola I. Campbell
"Shin-chi's Canoe" by Nicola I. Campbell
"Fatty Legs" by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
"When I was Eight" by Christy Jordan-Fenton
"Not My Girl" by Christy Jordan-Fenton
**Staff may request the above titles as a text set from BZERC.
Children drew what is most precious to them to put into a memory bag as Shi-shi-etko did.
Room 8's visit to the Seven Oaks Circle Gardens
A sharing circle on personal connections to Shi-shi-etko