Durham Catholic District School Board Indigenous Education: We Walk the Path Together logo
We Walk the Path Together:

Indigenous Education Newsletter
March 2020
The Indigenous Education Advisory Circle (IEAC) meets regularly to help the Durham Catholic District School Board build relationships and understand the needs of the community. We walk the path together on a journey of reconciliation to support staff, students and community members in this significant work.
One of the priorities of the committee is to build deeper understanding of why a land acknowledgement is read each morning as part of the opening exercises in our schools. Key messages have been shared with school administrators and teacher representatives from each school. Our goal is to encourage staff and students to not only recognize the traditional territory that our schools are located on, but to also consider our relationship with the land. We hope to extend the land acknowledgement to a call to action to engage in more learning and reflect on concrete actions we can take to build the spirit of reconciliation and serve as stewards of creation. We look forward to supporting the schools in their learning journeys.
Two female members of the Indigenous Education Advisory Circle and a male elder present the new Chair of the Board and Director of Education with a gift
Building Learning Environments that Engage Students and Honours Indigenous Peoples
At the January 27, 2020 Board meeting, our Teaching and Learning staff provided an overview of Indigenous Education in the context of the  Discovery 2023: Renewing the Vision Strategic Plan:

  • To build learning environments which engage students and honour Indigenous peoples and a variety of cultural perspectives.

  • To demonstrate the many ways in which Indigenous perspectives are being integrated into teaching and learning, members of the Indigenous Advisory Circle opened with a ceremonial Indigenous prayer led by Elder Peter Wynne.

Members also discussed how educators are being supported to help students build an understanding of the Land Acknowledgement and deepen their understanding of what it means to them.

For some, the acknowledgement is an awareness of the presence of Indigenous people and of their sovereign land and territorial rights. It may also recognize the history of colonization and is a call for people to reflect on their individual responsibility to further explore how colonization has impacted and continues to impact Indigenous peoples. Saying the acknowledgement is a commitment to action for reconciliation.
Piloting Grade 11 English: Understanding Contemporary Indigenous Voices
The Durham Catholic District School Board together with our Indigenous Education Advisory Circle are pleased to announce changes to Grade 11 English courses at our pilot secondary schools. Beginning September 2020, the board will implement a new curriculum focus on Indigenous literature taught in Grade 11 English.

The new English courses called English: Understanding Contemporary Indigenous Voices reflect our board’s commitment to Indigenous Education and are in line with provincial and federal priorities as recommended by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The courses will feature the works of Indigenous authors and playwrights, be delivered in an innovative and modern mixed media format, and will be designed to incorporate Indigenous perspectives across the curriculum.

The new courses will support the development of each learner as articulated in the Catholic Graduate Expectations, will fulfill the mandatory Grade 11 English requirement for the Ontario Secondary School Diploma and are recognized by all post-secondary institutions.

We are excited to extend this innovative program to our board which reflects our shared commitment to reconciliation and will provide our students with the opportunity to examine contemporary issues in the English classrooms.
Books on shelf featuring Indigenous literature
Female adult and member of the board's Indigenous Education Advisory Circle talking to students about Indigenous people.
Student brainstorming what they know about Indigenous education
Monsignor Paul Dwyer Catholic High School Students attend Indigenous Education Workshop
On Friday, February 28, a Grade 9 Geography class from Monsignor Paul Dwyer Catholic High School participated in an Indigenous Education workshop. Students explored their knowledge of Indigenous peoples and started a curiosity wall where questions regarding Indigenous education were placed for discussion and clarification.

During the workshop, students researched the following topics: Doctrine of Discovery and the Manifest Destiny and the impact these events had on Indigenous peoples and culture.

The workshop was an opportunity for students to deepen their understanding of Indigenous history and culture.

Métis Presentation at St. Jude Catholic School
Indigenous education takes place throughout the year in our schools. In the fall, St. Jude Catholic School welcomed Métis elder, Kathy Bazley who presented the importance of Louis Riel and Métis culture to Kindergarten to Grade 5 students.

Mrs. Bazley explained to students the Métis sashes (blue for males and red for females) and the importance of fiddle music, dancing and bead work in the Métis culture. Students also had the opportunity to touch the furs so they could better understand what the coureur des bois would have transported across Canada for the Hudson Bay Company in their Voyageur canoes. 
Metis display in a school library
Table covered with Metis items such as furs, moccasins, Metis flags, Hudson Bay blanket, Metis sashes and birch bark canoes
Three female students painting an Indigenous education mural in their school
Three female students working on their Indigenous mural in the school's stairwell
Indigenous Mural Depicts Nature around All Saints Catholic Secondary School
Three Grade 12 students at All Saints Catholic Secondary School are working together on an Indigenous mural that depicts nature surrounding the school’s community. The secondary school is located between Lynde Creek and Otter Creek in Whitby, which is home to lots of wildlife such as a wide variety of birds, fox, deer and rabbits.

“We want the mural to accurately represent our native land in the neighbourhood around the school,” said Julia, an All Saints CSS student.

Grade 12 student Kaitlin added, “We approached the board’s Indigenous Education Advisory Circle who put us in touch with Circle member, Karli Robertson. Ms. Robertson has been helping us to better understand the native plants and animals that would have lived in the area around our school.”

Using all the colours in the medicine wheel, the mural illustrates the progression of the seasons and the cycle of the moon. Water is another main feature in the mural, along with a canoe which was one of the main modes of transportation for Indigenous people.

“The mural will also incorporate native plants and animals seen in the surrounding area,” noted Genevie, student. “Plus, we plan on adding the seasons in Ojibway and the land acknowledgement.”

The three students started painting the mural located beside the school’s front entrance in October, as part of their Grade 12 Visual Arts class. “The mural is a way for us to share our knowledge of Indigenous culture with fellow All Saint students,” added Julia. “While acknowledging and respecting Mother Earth.” 
Indigenous Mural at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic School focuses on Climate Change
In November 2019, Indigenous storyteller and renowned artist, Isaac Murdock shared his knowledge of Mother Earth with Grade 7 students at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic School. The students learned about Indigenous culture and how we need to take care of the Earth for future generations.

The students worked with Isaac to paint a mural that highlights a climate change message. In the painting, a fish who is a stargazer tells an Indigenous person that fish are dying and will be extinct in the next 50 years if we don’t start looking after our oceans.

“It’s important for students to understand and learn that by looking at Indigenous knowledge we can learn to live in balance with Mother Earth,” said Melanie O’Neill, member of Durham Catholic’s Indigenous Education Advisory Circle.

Student capped off the three days of learning with an Indigenous lunch featuring three sisters soup, a wild rice salad with fruit and berries and bannock.

Female student working with male artist to paint the mural on a school wall.
Mural of a fish speaking to an Indigenous person telling him that the fish are dying in the oceans and that help is need to keep our oceans and fish.
Three male students give three thumbs up to the Indigenous lunch
Female adult teaches students how to speak Ojibway.
Students' dot artwork on display
Male adult telling students an Indigenous story
Students learning how to use the hand drums.
St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School hosts Indigenous Education Day
In November 2019, students in Grades 4 to 8 at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School rotated through different Indigenous workshops to learn more about Indigenous culture. Students tried their hands at drumming,singing Indigenous songs and creating dot art. They also listened to Indigenous storytelling and learned some vocabulary in Ojibway.

A special thank you to members of DCDSB’s Indigenous Education Advisory Circle for sharing their culture and traditions with our students.

Upcoming Events
Indigenous event schedule for Ontario Tech University
To learn more about Indigenous Education at the Durham Catholic District School Board visit dcdsb.ca/IndigenousEducation.