Ucluelet, BC – Ucluelet High School (USS) began preparing for the Legacy of Hope exhibit days after welcoming its students back from summer vacation, before the Day deadline National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30.
Jason Sam, program coordinator for the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, had been organizing for six months prior to the event. On the second day of school, Sam and the USS teachers started working together, introducing the project to the students at the end of the first week.
Sam organized a meeting between students and residential school survivors at Tin Wis, the former location of the Christie residential school, to have the stories of the school shared with the students.
The students then went to class and worked on projects that would be featured in the exhibit.
Sam said the exhibit was divided into three themes: truth, honor and reconciliation. History 12, BC First Peoples 12 and Social Studies 9 worked on truth, Art 9 and English 10 worked on honor, while Literary Studies 11, Nuu-chah-nulth 8 and 10 worked on reconciliation. 150 students participated in the project.
In partnership, Ucluelet High School and the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust curated the Legacy of Hope exhibit as well as a student-created multidisciplinary exhibit. Funded by the Heritage Project and the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, the exhibit was created as a learning opportunity for students and community members.
The Legacy of Hope exhibit, representing the Canadian government’s 2008 apology, was at the very center of the room. In this interactive piece of the exhibit, people were invited to leave a message for the survivors or the Canadian people.
Nancy Woods, a 10th grade English teacher at ASU, said students learn didactic poems, which are plays that explore the truth, morals and principles of their messages.
Students worked in teams to create paired poems. One poem exploring the heavy emotions and experiences of survivors, the other exploring its healing counterpart.
“What better way to explain the moral injustices and then the strength of the survivors than this juxtaposition,” Woods said.
The Grade 10 English students, the authors of the poems, spoke with Ha-Shilth-Sa about their experience working on them.
Yemaya Windle, student and author of the poem Healing, said it was an eye-opening experience to listen to survivors tell their stories.
“We wrote about how painful it was not being able to be with their family where they felt safest,” Windle said. “I wrote how, how when they finally got home, how it was a slow healing process for everything they went through.”
“It was really hard to write because obviously I wasn’t in their shoes…I’ll never know exactly how they felt,” she added.
Jacob Offerein wanted to capture the survivor experience as best he could. Offerein and her partner wrote the poems titled Isolation and Community.
“We wanted people to see the importance of family and…being social with other people,” Offerein said. “And we really wanted to do what happens if you’re all alone – stripped of your identity…we really wanted to focus on the culture and the people.”
“I think they find value in it when you bring in people who can actually share their stories of going to residential schools, it kind of puts a serious veil on it, and the kids have been great. said Sam. “It’s such a hard thing to do once you start school. We’re jumping straight into boarding schools just to try and meet that September 30 deadline. »
Rhys Cannon, a 10th grade English student and author of the poem Fear, said he had researched residential schools in Canada for a few years, but did not know the extent of what survivors had lived.
“I have heard stories [before]but I never heard of it from the real survivors,” Cannon said.
“[Truth and reconciliation is] really important because this issue needs to be addressed,” Cannon continued. “All calls to action must be addressed. So I think it’s really good that it continues.
Melissa Renwick, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Ha-Shilth-Sa