Beaconsfield students learn about Indigenous history through the arts

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Beaconsfield students learning history through art
WATCH: Grade 5 and 6 students at St. Edmund Elementary School helped write and produce a play aimed at advancing reconciliation with Indigenous communities in Canada – May 6, 2019

It’s taken three months to pull it off, but students at St. Edmund Elementary School in Beaconsfield have managed to put together a play that explores a dark part of Canadian history.

“I’m floored,” said Indigenous throat singer Nina Segalowitz, who also performed a song during the play. “I’m moved. I’m touched by this next generation of students who have taken on the act of reconciliation and are doing it.”

READ MORE: New stat holiday proposed to mark Indigenous reconciliation set for Sept. 30

The play, titled Reconciliation, is about how Indigenous Peoples in Canada were subjugated from the time of the first European settlers to the years when the government split families apart in the name of education.

“I’ve always incorporated a little bit of Indigenous history into my music class,” explained music teacher Jennifer Hayden-Benn.

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Hayden-Benn and a group of grade 5 and 6 students came up with the idea for the play, but the students did the bulk of the work.

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“The students wrote the entire scripts,” Hayden-Benn said.

WATCH: Reconciliation and the controversial legacy of John A. MacDonald

Click to play video: 'Reconciliation and the controversial legacy of John A. MacDonald'
Reconciliation and the controversial legacy of John A. MacDonald

She said the scripts were vetted by Indigenous community members for accuracy.

“Because so often in Indigenous history, you don’t get the whole story or the true story,” she added.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into residential schools issued 94 calls to action.

These calls to action are meant to help advance reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous Peoples.

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For Hayden-Benn, teaching Indigenous history is part of that reconciliation. She says that as a student, she was taught almost nothing about things like Canada’s residential schools and had to learn about this history on her own.

“I kind of made a vow to myself that any student who came through my life, I would make sure to share that history with them,” she said.

Learning that history moved the kids, like Grade 5 student Addison Martin.

READ MORE: Truth and Reconciliation — What comes next?

“Learning about the residential schools, you know, learning about the children being picked up by cattle trucks and being brought to residential schools really impacted us,” she said.

Segalowitz was impressed that the pupils really wanted to learn about this history.

“It’s not complicated to do reconciliation,” she told Global News. “I don’t think it takes papers and documents and steps. It doesn’t take that. It takes intention.”

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