Local high school recognizing Truth and Reconciliation this week

September 30, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By August Bettinelli

Students and staff at Orangeville District Secondary School (ODSS) are recognizing National Truth and Reconciliation Day this week, educating each other through lessons, symbols and fundraising, as well as participating in Orange Shirt Day on Thursday (Sept. 30).

“Our goals are to raise awareness, promote understanding, and inspire action on topics of reconciliation by providing opportunities for the students to listen to and learn from Indigenous peoples. We hope in the years to come we as a school can work harder to establish stronger connections with local treaty partners and return to in-person guest speakers to help us on this path of learning,” says ODSS Art teacher, Kiran Denis.

ODSS is spending three days acknowledging Canada’s dark history with respect to Indigenous people, each with a theme. The first being Truth, in which students learned about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as the history of residential schools.

Afterwards, the students wrote their own land acknowledgements to recognize the land they are on. These pieces are fixed to a tree on Fead Street marked by hung orange circles. 

The second day is themed around Reconciliation, where students examine the 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

The final day, focused on Action, encourages students to formulate their own ways to remember, contribute to a charity that benefits Indigenous people, and wear orange on Thursday (Sept. 30).

There are also several symbols to represent different issues affecting the Indigenous community in and around ODSS.

Along the sidewalk near the school and in the parking lot are hundreds of orange and yellow footprints, painted by students, that represent the ongoing findings of unmarked graves at residential schools open from the 1870s to 1996. These schools held the purpose of assimilating Indigenous children into the population of settlers.

Red dresses are hung on a clothesline as well to represent the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women across Canada, and lastly, water bottles are set up on a table to bring awareness to the unsafe drinking water that many people living on reserves are exposed to.

The aim of this project is to spread education and awareness while ensuring staff and students of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit ethnic origin feel safe and supported during this time.

Student services will provide space to further fortify those affected by the trauma or nature of these topics, and access to crisis counselling lines will be readily available.

Denis, along with several other staff members have participated in the UGDSB Action Plan professional development program that will further the knowledge of both staff and students on Indigenous education.

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