KPDSB becomes third school board in Canada to have all schools register as Legacy Schools
Jesse Bonello - Staff WriterThe Keewatin-Patricia District School Board (KPDSB) confirmed, through the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, that they’re just the third school board in Canada to have all their schools register as Legacy Schools.
“The Legacy Schools program is a free national initiative to engage, empower and connect students and educators to further reconciliation through awareness, education and action (#reconciliACTION). All schools across Canada are encouraged to join us by signing up… We provide educational resources and program development for Legacy Schools to help ensure that the unique interests, rights, and perspectives of Indigenous peoples are recognized and implemented in schools and communities across Canada,” the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund website reads.
“Inspired by Chanie’s story and Gord’s call to build a better Canada, the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF) aims to build cultural understanding and create a path towards reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples,” the website further states.
In November of 2018, Crolancia Public School in Pickle Lake was named the first Legacy School in Canada. Since then, as of October, all KPDSB schools have registered as Legacy Schools.
“I was so happy and proud to see that all the KPDSB schools were signed up. That idea came from Jennifer McMaster, so when I saw that email, which was a challenge put out to all the principals and all the schools to join up and be part of the legacy school program, I was super happy to see that it all worked out. I’m super proud to be a part of that,” said Holly Szumowski, Crolancia Public School Principal.
“Being part of the Legacy School Program is really working past just talking about the Residential School history, but actually doing things to educate other people, to make positive contributions to the community and the school, and to be honest about what happened so we can really honour the people that went there, make sure everybody is educated about what happened, and move forward in a positive way together,” she said.
“I did send out a challenge prior to Secret Path Week to all of the elementary and secondary administrators in the school board saying that Sioux North had signed up to become a legacy school, following the lead of Crolancia Public School who was the first legacy school, to see if we could get 100 per cent success with having our KPDSB schools sign up as legacy schools and to participate in Secret Path Week. We were very successful. Within a week we had all of our schools on board,” said Jennifer McMaster, Sioux North High School Vice Principal.
“When you sign up to be a Legacy School, the Downie Wenjack Fund provides you two copies of the Secret Path, with resources for leading reconciliACTIONs in your school, so you get a lot of support from the Downie Wenjack Fund. I was really proud that, as part of the KPDSB’s commitment to reconciliation, we were able to have all of our schools register as Legacy Schools. I believe we’re the third school board in Canada to have all of their schools register,” she said.
All the KPDSB schools registered in time to participate in Secret Path Week, which took place from Oct. 17 and 22.
“Secret Path Week is a national movement commemorating the legacies of Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack, and takes place annually from October 17-22. This is a special week as October 17th and 22nd respectively mark the dates that Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack joined the spirit world. We call on all Canadians to use Secret Path Week to answer Gord Downie’s call to action, to “Do Something” by creating a reconciliACTION and furthering the conversation about the history of residential schools,” downiewenjack.ca reads.
Through the Downie Wenjack Foundation, Legacy Schools are asked to participate in reconciliACTIONs.
According to the Downie Wenjack Foundation website, “ReconciliACTIONs aim to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together in the spirit of reconciliation to create awareness, share, and learn.”
Szumowski said Crolancia Public School created an outdoor classroom for students as part of their reconciliACTIONs.
“It’s been wonderful. We’ve been working hard on our different reconciliACTIONs over the past year. Throughout the past year we’ve completed our outdoor classroom, which was our first reconciliACTION as being a Legacy School. That was our big project, and the kids were able to use it in the fall and will be able to use it again in the spring,” she said.
“I am looking for some student voice and community voice on what we would like to do for our 2019-2020 reconciliACTION. We’re just in our planning stages with that right now,” she added.
McMaster shared that, along with hosting a variety of cultural and traditional events at the school, Sioux North High School has a variety of Indigenous learning resources for students as part of their reconciliACTIONs.
“At Sioux North High School we have in-house intranet, and on there we have a whole Indigenous education resource page where we have links to Elders, community resources, and online resources. We also have a Lending Library for Indigenous resources in our school. Some of the things we’ve done are participate in Orange Shirt Day and lead the Treaties Recognition Week kick-off. We attend and host many cultural events in our school, in particular during Traditional Week, which is the four days after Thanksgiving. We have classes that are working with the First Nations Caring Society… We have a group of students and teachers who worked with Lac Seul First Nation to create a land acknowledgement for our new school, so there’s a plaque here at the school. Our land acknowledgement is read on the announcements every morning,” she explained.
For more information on the Downie Wenjack Foundation and the Legacy School Program, visit downiewenjack.ca.