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

Indigenous Education Newsletter
November 2020
The Indigenous Education Advisory Circle (IEAC) meets regularly to help the Durham Catholic District School Board build relationships and listen to 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.
Postcards designed by students in the Grade 11 English Indigenous Voices course
A stack of books written by Indigenous authors
Grade 11 English: Understanding Contemporary Indigenous Voices
As quadmester 1 draws to a close, we spoke to students, educators and members of our Indigenous Education Advisory Circle about the new Grade 11 English: Contemporary Indigenous Voices course and our Board’s commitment to Indigenous Education. The course designed in partnership with the Board’s Indigenous Education Advisory Circle involves students looking at a variety of texts and examines Indigenous issues and core ideas such as Identity, Land, Language & Culture, Relationships, Transgenerational Trauma and Media Portrayals.

“DCDSB educators are delivering Indigenous content in an innovative and modern mixed media format, while providing students with experiential learning from an Indigenous perspective which is essential to responsible and productive citizenship,” said Karli Robertson, member of the Indigenous Education Advisory Circle. “In studying the history of colonization and continued violence that Indigenous peoples and the land face, students are gaining a better understanding of the intergenerational trauma in our communities and the resilience and diversity of our knowledge and cultures.”

Recently, Grade 11 students taking the course at Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School participated in a virtual tour of the Woodland Cultural Center which operates out of the old Mohawk Residential School, in Brantford. The Center serves to preserve and promote Indigenous history, art, language and culture. “Students created and wrote postcards to the survivors who spoke to our class leading up to Orange Shirt Day,” said Mrs. Duguay, the Interim English Curriculum Chair at Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School. “The experiential learning opportunity offered students insight into what life was like in a residential school and the trauma students and survivors experienced.”

“It’s vital for students to listen to the world views of our peoples, to hear Indigenous stories and to learn the history in order to build intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect,” said Robert Cutting, member of the DCDSB’s Indigenous Education Advisory Circle. “As the board’s motto says ‘We Walk the Path Together’, we can only do this by walking side by side with our students and the local community and by sharing our culture, history and language together.”

“The course is opening doors to conversations and yes, sometime those conversations are uncomfortable, but by talking and listening students are now able to identify with the injustices that Indigenous people face,” added Mrs. Duguay. “These conversations are necessary in order to come to reconciliation and peace.”

A highlight from the course has been students’ ability to connect with authors of the books they are reading on social media or listen to an author’s podcast or video. “Students think it’s cool make connections with the authors,” said Karli Robertson. “These connections help them to better understand the authors as individuals and their perspectives as well as connect youth to other Indigenous voices and the wider Indigenous community.”

These connections have students coming into class and talking about recent media stories like the lobster fisheries in Nova Scotia and they are relating to how others are impacted by injustices in the world.
A Grade 11 Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School student added, “I think it is important to learn about Indigenous culture, stories and language because as Canadians, the effects of stripping Indigenous culture away in the past affects all Canadians whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous. We are all part of the society that did horrific things to Indigenous people. Learning about their culture can help break stereotypes that still affect Indigenous people today. It is important because it is a valuable lesson to learn about the long-term effects and trauma that Indigenous people are experiencing to try our best to heal Indigenous people and preserve their culture."

Looking ahead to Quadmester 2, Mrs. Duguay is already planning to invite more Indigenous partners such as Mary Kelly and Robert Cutting to share their Indigenous voices and lived experiences with students – making the learning experience richer and more authentic.
“The sharing of Indigenous culture and history is an oral tradition,” noted Robert Cutting. “Students are learning about our peoples by listening to the stories and it’s by connecting with these stories that students will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of our culture.”
Residential School Survivor, Mary Kelly speaks to DCDSB staff
On Orange Shirt Day (September 30) staff at the Durham Catholic District School Board's St. Francis of Assisi Centre were invited to a virtual presentation by residential school survivor, Mary Kelly. Mary attended Fort Frances Residential School on the southwest shore of Rainy Lake in northwestern Ontario.

Mary shared with staff how the students' voices and feelings didn't matter at the residential schools. "We were told repeatedly that we were worthless and that the residential schools were created to get rid of the Indian problem," said Mary Kelly. "The schools' goals were to instill a pronounced distaste for our native life, culture and language."

Students were given chores to do while at the school - everything from making meals, to cleaning and laundry. "We were conditioned in the schools," added Mary. "To this day, I still fold my white sheets the same way. The sheets had to be perfect or we got hit."

The trauma experienced by students attending the schools haunts survivors to this day. “My sister, brother and I all became alcoholics. We were not made to feel human or worth anything,” added Mary. “It’s been more than 15 years since my last drink. It's important for people to realize that we need to be kind to each other and treat each other as human beings."

Mary encouraged board staff to continue to educate students on the Indigenous history, culture and language. "It's vital that students hear our traditions and stories and that Indigenous voices are heard - it's part of the healing journey for us and an important part of our past that we as Canadians need to acknowledge."
female adult wearing an orange shirt
Fort Frances Residential School
Goals of the residential school
Indigenous Education We Walk the Path Together. Path in the forest with a broken tree
Student Indigenous Education Advisory Circle
In December 2020, the board's Indigenous Education Advisory Circle will be seeking Durham Catholic students with a First Nations, Inuit or Métis background in Grades 7 to 12 to join the Student Indigenous Education Advisory Circle.

Watch for information to be shared on schools' websites, social media and an email message will be sent to families regarding the application process.

If you are looking for an opportunity to lend your voice and share your ideas on Indigenous Education, we encourage you to apply.

DCDSB Student Indigenous Education Advisory Meetings will begin in early 2021. For additional information, contact our Academic Services Consultant for Indigenous Education at 905-576-6150 ext. 22181. 

Upcoming Events
Map of Ontario with different coloured areas to represented different Indigenous Territories
November 2-6 is Treaties Recognition Week
Join us in observing Treaties Recognition Week from November 2 to 6, 2020. This annual event is an opportunity for students and residents of Ontario to learn more about treaty rights and relationships. During this week, students will learn why treaties matter as members of our board's Indigenous Education Advisory Circle share stories and information.

To learn more, we invite you to follow us on Twitter @DurhamCatholic and/or participate in the virtual Living Library event entitled "We are all Treaty People" on November 6, 2020 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

This event features Robert Greene and Maurice Switzer and is moderated by Bob Goulais. It includes a one-hour panel discussion followed by a 30-minute interactive question and answer session.

November 8 is Indigenous Veterans' Day
When Indigenous veterans returned home from World War I and World War II they were not formally recognized for their dedication until after 1960.

Indigenous men brought valuable skills with them when they joined the military. Patience, stealth and marksmanship were well-honed traits for those who had come from communities where hunting was a cornerstone of daily life. These attributes helped many of these soldiers become successful snipers and reconnaissance scouts.

Students will recognize and honour Zhimaahanashii Giizhigad (Indigenous Veterans' Day) and learn about men like one of Canada's most decorated Indigenous soldiers, Francis Pegahmagabow (pictured right) who was awarded the Military Medal with two bars during the First World War.

Here is a list of all Indigenous peoples who served in the wars. The list continues to grow as more families add in their ancestors’ information.
Male decorated Indigenous soldier, Francis Pegahmagabow was awarded the Military Medal with two bars during the First World War.
To learn more about Indigenous Education at the Durham Catholic District School Board visit dcdsb.ca/IndigenousEducation.