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Students take part in Education for Reconciliation

By Costa Maragos Posted: April 15, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Residential school survivor Eugene Arcand speaks to about 1,500 students who packed one of the gyms at the U of R.
Residential school survivor Eugene Arcand speaks to about 1,500 students who packed one of the gyms at the U of R. Photo: External Relations

Hundreds of elementary and high schools students from Southern Saskatchewan heard stories of residential school survival and reconciliation, in a day-long event organized by the Faculty of Education and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

The students, about 1,500 from 50 schools, took part in “Walking Together” – A Day of Education for Reconciliation.

At the opening ceremonies, the students heard from residential school survivors Eugene Arcand and Elder Noel Starblanket, who is a lifespeaker at the University of Regina.

Also addressing the crowd were Dr. Vianne Timmons, U of R President and Vice-Chancellor; Dr. Shauneen Pete, Executive Lead of Indigenization; Charlene Bearhead, education coordinator from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation; and Dr. Jennifer Tupper, Dean of the Faculty of Education.

Indian Head Students
Students from Indian Head High School among the hundreds attending ‘Walking Together.’

Tupper says this special day took about six months to plan. The response from the schools was overwhelmingly positive.

“We had to turn students and teachers away because we did not have the capacity to meet the demand for this kind of day,” she says. ”There is a desire and appetite for this kind of learning and to begin think differently about what a reconciled future might look like.”

Following the opening event, the students attended individual learning activities throughout the day with guest speakers covering topics that included the Inuit experience, the blanket exercise, voices of youth, project of heart, conversations for reconciliation and much more.

This was the first time the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation partnered on an Education Day on a university campus.

“For me, having this event on a university campus makes it even more special,” says Charlene Bearhead. “We’re here to inspire teachers and students to get on that journey of learning, that journey of reconciliation, that seeking of truth and the social justice actions that are required to build respectful relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous people in this country.”

Bearhead says this Education Day was made even more special, because the University of Regina is on Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 Territory.