Victoria Linklater Memorial School commemorates Orange Shirt Day
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
Victoria Linklater Memorial School (VLMS) in North Spirit Lake acknowledged and honoured Indian Residential School (IRS) survivors on Orange Shirt Day, September 30th. Orange Shirt Day was created in 2013 to educate people and spread awareness in Canada about the residential schools and their impact on survivors, their families and communities. The ripple effects caused by the schools continue to this day.
A teacher at Victoria Linklater Memorial School, Brandon MacLeod, said that on Orange Shirt Day, all students received their orange shirts, and staff wore their orange shirts as well. The school hosted three elders of the community, who were also residential school survivors, as well as two Native Language teachers, to interact, educate and share their experiences with the students.
“It was very powerful and emotional for the kids to see and learn what they had to go through and where we are now. I think it’s always important for the students to have a clear picture of the history. I think it empowers students to be proactive in understanding the world they’re a part of, and make the world a better place, knowing what happened before. Every year, new teachers come here and we have new students, so this is always something to learn, something to continue to pay honor and remembrance to,” said MacLeod.
Due to restrictions put in place during the pandemic, the guests communicated with the students from the Library, via Google Meet. MacLeod explained, “Each of the classrooms got to hear them, talk to them, interact with them and learn about their topics like residential schools, their experiences and they also talked about school today and the importance of education in helping change. They also mentioned that it’s important that students learn about their pasts, about their traditions and culture, and language is revitalized,” acknowledging the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action.
The day began with an opening prayer by a Native Language teacher. The Education Partnership Program Liaison at Keewaytinook Okimakanak Board of Education (KOBE), Desta Buswa said, “Fresh Market Foods donated 100 fresh fruit cups to assist the grade 1/2 (students) in their discussion of what Residential School students were fed at these institutions, resulting in malnutrition, etc. Then, the fruit cups were used as a compatible, showing what VLMS students are fed today, based on what we’ve learned helps students succeed. The students then delivered the fruit cups as part of their act of service to others.” MacLeod added that the older students prepared meal packages to be delivered to the families that were affected by the residential schools.
“Acts of reciprocity ultimately is the thread that pulls us together and reinforces the truth that we were never designed to walk our educational journey alone. Giant Tiger donated teddy bears to the Kindergarten Class Teddy Bear Picnic, which involved exploring the virtues of kindness and love that students work towards today at VLMS. The Grade 6-7 (students) sewed little orange shirts for the kindergarten students’ teddy bears as an expression of love, kindness to their juniors. Historically, the senior and junior students at residential school would not be allowed to interact, so this action was meaningful on various levels,” said Buswa.
MacLeod mentioned that the school conducts several land-based programs that “focus on the traditions, culture, language, the land around here and the intention and the action from that, to reconnect with where they came from and help their minds set their own identity. Rather than telling them who they should be, and how they should be.” He added that there are specific Oji-Cree lessons every day for students and when it comes to local, historical and cultural knowledge, they do their best to have local elders and knowledge keepers lead or take part in the activities.