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Blog: Thursday, September 30th, 2021

Long Path Forward

Thank you to all who have included a land acknowledgment in their email signatures.  In my own learning journey, I have learned the correct representation and spelling of each local Nation. I share this with you and ask you check to ensure you are using the correct spelling as well.  The land acknowledgment below was approved by our Indigenous Education Council.

"Abbotsford School District is located on the traditional and unceded territory of the Stó:lō people, the Semá:th First Nation and Mathxwí First Nation. With this, we respect the longstanding relationships that Indigenous Nations have to this land, as they are the original caretakers."

Our district has a strong commitment to Indigenous Education and equity for Indigenous learners.  Last year we started an Indigenous Education Council, chaired by our Cultural Advisor and Knowledge Keeper, Dr. Gwendolyn Point, along with three additional voting members from a leadership role at Matsqui First Nation, Sumas First Nation, and the Fraser Valley Métis Association.  This council provides recommendations for our programs and initiatives as well as approval of our budget. The IEC has provided us with valuable insight, direction, and support during this past challenging year. Their advocacy has led to the development of new initiatives particularly to support Children in Care and to support teachers to infuse Indigenous perspectives into their classrooms as well as to learn about and teach Canada’s history more accurately, inclusive of residential school history, the Indian Act and other damaging legislation.

The department has an ISW at every school along with a team of teachers in the district supporting our students and programs.  Every school has a representative from our department, and I encourage you to find out who that person is in your school and take some time to get to know them.  I sincerely thank our Indigenous Department staff who have worked so hard.  The troubling news of First Nations children’s’ remains being found in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc brought layers of hurt, anger and personal family loss.  With each new ‘discovery’ (I say discovery, but Indigenous families have always known their children were missing), the hurt and pain continues. At the time of this article, there have been 6509 children found.  Know that our staff have very close connections to these events and feel these losses deeply and personally.  And yet, our staff came to work to support and continue advocating for their students. A special thank you to each member of the Indigenous Department team.

Below are some excerpts of thoughts shared by our team in June.

“I welcome all questions, all thoughts, and encourage all conversations. I want you all to know that although my heart is very heavy, I welcome you to speak to me and I am here to support you in your classrooms, I will facilitate conversations or just be in the room if you want to talk with your students and want some support. This is a very hard subject for everyone, it was evident today and I want to put you at ease if that is even a little possible. Please remember this is a journey we are all taking together, we are charging a new path to education, and we must do so with love and humility,” Sameera Daraska.

“I just wanted to share some of the beautiful cards that were given to me today. I feel so fortunate to have my handprint on our future generations. This is our hope for the future,” Jessi Old Coyote.

Text in student card:

“Thank you for teaching us games and all about the moons.  I’m grateful for your ‘knowledge’.  I’m happy that I learned all about your culture.  I wish that …

You get your land back.
We help each other.
You get treated respectfully.”

“This week I have talked with our students though grief, anger, sadness – big emotions that they often have nowhere to place but your classroom floor. I remember in my first years of teaching, my grandma showed me a TED talk where the speaker explained the important work teachers can do in their classrooms to create socially responsible citizens before any academics take place. I want to remind everyone that the legacy of Residential Schools is not a historical issue – it needs to be addressed here and now. I ask you to initiate open, respectful dialogue around the recent news in your classroom. This is something our students want,” Taryn MacDonald.

“A small voice whispered... ‘They found us.’?  My healing is my unspoken thank you to my ancestors for every song, prayer, and sacrifice. ♥️ There are so many feelings and not enough words. When I look around me at all our brothers and sisters and two-spirited relatives, of all ages, finding ourselves, finding our gifts and putting in the work, I am overwhelmed with emotion. When I see our people working hard undoing centuries of trauma and pain, reviving ancient knowledge and traditional practices, awakening our spirits in ceremony, learning to speak our Mother tongue after generations of loss, studying and working within institutions not made for us, taking in leadership roles in our communities, shedding the shame that we’ve felt because of our physical features like the colour of our skin, walking difficult paths, standing on the front lines for our Mother Earth, cleaning up the forests and rivers, becoming young warriors, raising our children in tough circumstances to be fierce and strong, to be unapologetically Indigenous and proud, it brings tears to my eyes. I think of all of my ancestors dancing in the sky, and I think ‘Look at us. We survived,’” Sydney Ned.

Tsit’tholetstel - I thank you.

Darlene MacDonald

District Principal

Indigenous Education

 

 

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