Category Archives: Truth and reconciliation

Orange Shirt Day: A Day of Remembrance, Memory Bags, and Anchor Books

September 30th is Orange Shirt Day and the first National Day of remembrance: a day to acknowledge and honour the victims of the Canadian residential school system. Leading up to this day, it is important to begin the conversations around Truth and Reconciliation, no matter what grade you teach. As with many classroom conversations, picture books provide an access point into the discussions.

Here is a short video by CBC Kids News to explain “indigenous” that might be helpful to support the conversation. https://youtu.be/CISeEFTsgDA

The Inspiration

While not all the books on residential schools may be age appropriate for younger students, Nicola Campbell’s book Shi-Shi-Etko is a gentle way to begin the conversation. It is a beautifully told and illustrated story about the four days before a young Indigenous girl must leave her family and go to residential school. Her mother, father and grandmother, each in turn, share valuable teachings that they want her to remember, while Shi-shi-etko carefully gathers her memories to remind her of home.

Shi-shi-etko | CBC Books

Shi-Shi-Etko – Nicola Campbell

The Lesson

Part 1

• Write the word “home” on the board. Invite students to think about the word – ask them what connection, feeling, and visual image do they think of when they see this word. Invite students to share with a partner or share out with the class.
• Ask the students if they have ever been away from home? Discuss going away from home with your family vs. going away by yourself.
• Introduce the book Shi-Shi-etko by Nicola Campbell. Tell the students it is a book about an Indigenous girl who is leaving her home to go away to school. But she is young and she doesn’t want to go and she is going without her family. Ask the students what that might be like? What feelings would she be having?


NOTE: At this point, you may want to introduce the subject of residential schools. This would depend on your grade level. If so, explain that many indigenous children were sent away to school. In the schools, they were given English names, their hair was cut short, and they were not allowed to speak their own language or talk about their culture. Discuss what that might have been like.


• Explain that before Shi-Shi-Etko goes to school, she is trying to collect memories of her home. Her mom, grandmother, and father are telling her to remember her home, her land, laughter, dancing when she is away at school.
• Invite the students to listen carefully to the way the author uses the senses to help us get a feeling about the girl’s home and what are some of the memories she collects.
• Read the story.
• Discuss some of the “memories” she was keeping. Explain that a memory is a connection she makes between an object and something from home.
• Draw a large “bag” on a shared screen or chart paper. As students respond, draw and label the items inside the bag: fireweed, paintbrush(flower), sprig, leaf, columbine, sage, pinecone. (If possible, show images of these plants on your ipad or smart board)
• Pass out “Memory Bag” paper. Invite students to draw Shi-Shi-Etko’s memories inside the bag. (see sample below)

Download the Memory Bag Template HERE

Lesson – Part 2

NOTE: You will need to prepare for this lesson by gathering objects from your home that you would put into your memory bag – to help you remember home. If possible, hide them inside a paper or drawstring bag.


• Review story of Shi-Shi-Etko. Remind students that in order to remember her home, her land, her family, Shi-shi-Etko collected “memories” for her memory bag.
• Ask the students to imagine having their own memory bag to store things to help them remember their home.
• Explain that you have collected some items from your home that you have strong connections to. They help you remember your home. (If possible, bring real objects from home for this lesson) Take each item out of the bag and explain why you chose it and what it reminds you of.
Example:
 sprig of lavender – my grannie’s favorite flower and the smell reminds me of her
 knitting needle – reminds me of my mom because she loved to knit
 maple leaf – reminds me of the maple tree in my front yard which was a wedding gift (reminds me of my husband)
 piece of fur – from my dog to remind me of her
 heart shaped pebble – reminds me of my sons


• Have students talk with a partner about some of the things they might want to put into their memory bag. Discuss how a toy may be something fun to play with but may not help them remember their home.
• Pass out the blank memory bag (same as part 1) Invite students to draw and label things inside their Memory Bag.
• On the back, they can list their items and why it is special to them.

Download the Memory Bag Template HERE

End the lesson
• Ask the students to compare their memory bags with Shi-Shi-Etko’s. What do you notice? All of Shi-Shi-Etko’s memories are connected to the land. Explain to students that Indigenous people believe that the land connects us all.

Other books to support Orange Shirt Day:

The Orange Shirt Story – Phyllis Webstad

The original book that started the Orange Shirt Day movement. Geared for older students. Watch the author, Phyllis Webstad, talk about the book. (As always, please preview the video before sharing with your students) https://youtu.be/E3vUqr01kAk

Phyllis’s Orange Shirt – Phyllis Webstad

An adaptation of The Orange Shirt Story for younger students.

The Train – Jodie Calleghan

Secret Path : Downie, Gord, Lemire, Jeff: Amazon.ca: Books

The Secret Path – Gordon Downie

Tragically Hip front man, the late Gordon Downie collaborated with illustrator Jeff Lemire to create this graphic novel picture book that tells the true story of Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack, a twelve-year-old boy who died trying to walk home after fleeing from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School. Gordon Downie wrote 10 powerful songs to go along with the book. Recommended for older students.

When We Were Alone – David A. Robertson

I am Not A Number – Jenny K. Dupuis

When I Was Eight – Christy Jordan-Fenton

I Lost My Talk – Rita Joe

I’m Finding My Talk – Rebecca Thomas

Speaking Our Truth – A Journey of Reconciliation – Monique Gray Smith

You Hold Me Up – Monique Grey Smith

NOTE:

When I was a student in elementary school in the early 70’s, I had never heard of residential schools. None of my teachers mentioned it. In my early years of teaching, I didn’t talk to my students about residential schools because it was not in our curriculum, and no teacher mentioned it. Hard to admit that, but it’s true. Thank you to all of you for mentioning, acknowledging, and honoring this important truth. Every child does matter.

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Filed under Indigenous Stories, OLLI, Online Books and Lessons, Orange Shirt Day, residential school, Truth and reconciliation

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Gordon Downie – My Canadian Hero

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It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

Secret Path

Secret Path – Gordon Downie

Gordon Downie, iconic front man for the Tragically Hip and who is suffering from terminal brain cancer, will release his first book called Secret Path this coming Tuesday, October 18th. (Downie’s new album, Secret Path, will be released on the same day).   Secret Path is a graphic novel Downie wrote to honor and shed light on the story of 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack, who died in 1966 after running away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School near Kenora, Ont.  Chanie died beside railroad tracks after escaping from the school and trying to walk to his home more than 600 kilometres away.  Downie learned of Chanie’s story, who was misnamed Charlie by his teachers, from a 1967 Maclean’s magazine article.  “I never knew Chanie, but I will always love him,” Downie said in an interview. “Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. This is about Canada. We are not the country we thought we were.”   A documentary film about Downie’s heartfelt project and visit to Chanie Wenjack’s family in Marten Falls will air on CBC on Oct. 23.   My TV is set.

For those of you who watched the Tragically Hip’s bittersweet farewell concert this summer,  in the midst of all the hit songs, you may remember Downie’s plea and comments to our prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Trudeau was in the crowd watching the concert and Downie spoke directly to him about Canada’s “dark past” and about trying to help fix the problems in Northern Canada.  “It’s maybe worse than it’s ever been, so it’s not on the improve. (But) we’re going to get it fixed and we got the guy to do it, to start, to help.”   At the time, I was not sure what he was talking about, but I was curious.  What I have since learned was that Downie was referring to the dark chapter in Canada’s history when more than 150,000 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children were placed in government-funded residential schools.

I know that I often make the comment “This is a MUST HAVE book!” in my blog posts. But this is a book we truly all need to buy and share with our students because Chanie Wenjack’s story needs to be told.  Students will connect to him, ache for him and learn from him. Proceeds from this book and album will go to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba, which is dedicated to preserving the history of the residential school system.

Is Gordon Downie ”qualified” to write this story even though he is not of aboriginal descent?  I believe he is.  His deep compassion for Chanie Wenjack, for his family and community qualifies him.  His extraordinary gift of words and powerful poetic voice qualifies him.  His strong desire to raise awareness of this critically important issue that he describes as “not an aboriginal problem; this is a Canadian problem” qualifies him.  His generosity, care, and deep humility, even in the face of his own death qualifies him. Gordon Downie has gifted us with a legacy of indelible music and lyrics and now has gifted us with this powerful story of Chanie Wenjack.  Gordon Downie is my Canadian hero.

Read more about Downie’s project here. Watch the official book trailer for Secret Path here.

Other new books on Truth and Reconciliation:

Wenjack – Joseph Boyden

Coincidentally, Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author Joseph Boyden’s (Three Day Road, The Orenda) new short MG novel (112 pages) tells the same story of  Chanie Wenjack – his escape from a residential school and his long walk home through the forests of Northern Canada.  This book focuses on the spirits of the forest who accompany him on his journey, sometimes to torment but ultimately to bring him comfort.  Beautiful illustrations by Ken Monkman.  This would be a great companion to Secret Path.

I am Not a Number – Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer

“Back home, long hair was a source of pride. We cut it when we lost a loved one. Now it felt as if a part of me was dying with every strand that fell.”
It’s not always easy to broach this subject with younger students but this book, based on the author’s grandmother’s experience in residential school, is written in straightforward, simple language that will help younger children understand what happened.  It is a powerful, heartbreaking and important story to share and to have in your school library.

Righting Canada’s Wrongs: Residential Schools – Melanie Florence

This Nonfiction book is dense with text and information, but would be an excellent resource for teachers who were studying this period in history with their class.   I like that it includes historical photographs, documents, and first-person narratives from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people who survived residential schools.  I would use it to read short passages for read aloud/think aloud lessons.  Great for practicing questioning.  (Please note: there is some criticism of this book having some inaccurate information about rituals that are described as being in “the past” but which, in fact, are still part of present-day aboriginal culture.  Also for the misspelling the word Métis (spelled with no accent and Me-tis).

Thanks for stopping by.  Please leave your thoughts in a quick reply!

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Filed under New Books, Redsigned BC curriculum, residential school, Truth and reconciliation