The one year anniversary of the final report for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings was marked Friday at City Hall with Edmonton’s two school boards being recognized for adopting some of reports’ findings.
A pair of smudge walks from the Public to the Catholic board offices, and three ceremonies honored the two school boards sharing how they are including the report’s findings in the class room.
“I really do believe that much like the 1960s civil rights movement, that we are living history,” said Chief Billy Morin from Enoch Cree First Nation. He said what students are experiencing today, will likely be in the history books decades from now. “Martin Luther King spoke, and all those things they spoke about in the 60s in the United States and across the world, that this is the time for First Nations and Aboriginal and Metis, Inuit people, that we’re going to look back.”
Rio Houle, who was valedictorian for the Catholic School district’s First Nation, Metis, and Inuit education program said a lot of information can be shared in the classroom. However he thinks more can be done.
“I would love to see the mandatory Aboriginal history course and I would love there to be a traditional languages available, because when I was going to school that’s something that I really wanted to do. I saw that there was a Cree language course, a 10, 20, 30, but I wasn’t allowed to do it. It might have been a lack of qualified teachers.”
“A lot of the backlash we got was from the teachers. People denying things like small pox blankets, things like historical facts. Social teachers too. People who were supposed to be teaching reconciliation and teaching the understanding of history to these students, we think that’s a hugely important thing to teach the teachers.”
Melissa Purcel, who’s the supervisor for Edmonton Public’s First Nation, Metis, and Inuit education program said as each year passes, the curriculum will be improved. “A huge part of our work that we’re doing is we’re doing lots and lots of professional learning. The professional learning comes from either team, or elders. It comes from knowledge keepers, cultural advisers and our students. Our students have been helping support education.”
The one year anniversary also marked for the first time ever in Canada, a city officially recognizing the work of the aboriginal studies of it’s school boards.