Advocating reconciliation through experiential learning

By Jennifer Pawluk, Communications Specialist

Recently, Tessa Blaikie Whitecloud, fund developer for 1JustCity, said to BH girls: You can be a part of making a better Canada for Indigenous peoples.

Added her husband, Hanwakan Blaikie Whitecloud: To meet the challenges of racism and colonialism with compassion, with kindness, is the responsibility of all Canadians.

Their words are resonating still.

Balmoral Hall, as a partner of Winnipeg’s Indigenous Accord, hosted an equity conference on February 13, 2018.

Led by Grade 11 students and teachers, the equity conference was a collaboration with the local Aboriginal community, both elders and youth, with sessions facilitated for all students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 throughout the day.

The day began with smudging, along with drumming courtesy of Maples Collegiate and Bernadette Smith, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Point Douglas.

After, grades 7 to 12 students were deeply engaged in a KAIROS Blanket Exercise, described as “a teaching tool to share the historic and contemporary relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.”

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BH girls participating in KAIROS Blanket Exercise, Feb. 13/18. (Photo by Chris Allinotte)

Meanwhile, Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6 students were involved in a series of in-class activities based on the age-appropriate curriculum, from making dreamcatchers to studying The Secret Path.

Taking a learn-at-lunch approach, Ashley Albert created a feature menu on behalf of Dana Hospitality, while Elder Wendy Whitecloud spoke about the importance of the feast in traditions of Indigenous peoples.

To close, Mr. & Mrs. Blaikie Whitecloud suggested that given our collective history we consider how to be “responsable” now and in the future.

Mrs. Blaikie Whitecloud encouraged all of us, as we call for change, to start a conversation knowing how to challenge untruths. Find your passion, and make an impact, she advised. Ask yourself: “How am I part of the solution?”

In addition to Mr. & Mrs. Blaikie Whitecloud, Ms Smith, Ms Albert, and Elder Whitecloud, we wish to extend heartfelt thanks to Elder Debra Beach Ducharme, Elder Joe McLellan, and Elder Florence Paynter for their participation in, and their ongoing support for, this experiential learning opportunity.

A few students later shared their reflections with me in a recorded interview. Click here to view a 90-second clip. Truly, I am humbled by their insight.

To be able to recognize privilege, and then to do something about it, are lessons that cannot be taught to children, exactly, rather learned in the course of their development.

In partnering with Winnipeg’s Indigenous Accord, Balmoral Hall supports education for reconciliation per the following call to action from Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada:

62. We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to:

i. Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.”

To understand what this looks like at Balmoral Hall School, in particular, imagine 500 stones, each inscribed with a word reflecting students’ understanding of equity.

These stones, because of what they stand for, empower us all to take responsibility for reconciliation in Canada.

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Reflecting on Balmoral Hall School’s Equity Conference, Feb. 13/18. (Photo by Chris Allinotte)
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