Montreal high school students create permanent reminder for truth and reconciliation

According to artist Jason Sikoak the mural took about 3 days to complete, with the help of about seven students. Sylvain Trudeau/Global News

Students at Beurling Academy in Montreal’s Verdun borough have been studying truth and reconciliation in support of Indigenous Peoples since September. On Friday evening, they unveiled the final project they chose to assist their learning.

The students chose to create a mural to honour Indigenous culture in the front stairwell of the school. The words “land back” are painted in grey on a bright red, yellow, purple and orange background with a timeline underneath, including events such as residential schools opening, the Indian Act and the 60s Scoop.

“It represents something really big in history because of the timeline and all of the horrible things that happened to Indigenous people,” said mural project student representative, Amara Diamond John.

Inuit artist Jason Sikoak worked with the teenagers to create the permanent piece. His work typically focuses on residential schools, colonialism and environmental statements. He said it’s an “honour” to display one of his murals in a school.

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“Change right now is slowly happening for Indigenous sovereignty and rights, but if the students at this age are saying ‘we want to do this,’ there’s hope for the future. Maybe better changes are coming down the road,” said Sikoak.

Click to play video: 'Reconciliation Curriculum'
Reconciliation Curriculum

He told Global News he presented a couple of ideas when they were planning it months ago including an artistic mural or “something a little more political like land back.”

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“They immediately jumped on the ‘land back’ idea,” he said.

On the wall opposite ‘land back,’ is a large green turtle swimming to represent Turtle Island.

This is the student’s second project on truth and reconciliation. In March they made moccasins as a way to honour children who never made it home from residential schools.

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Kahnawà:ke business owner Jessica Hernandez visited the school to talk about Project 215+, the Canada-wide moccasin making initiative.

The shoes were displayed in a case down the hallway from the mural on Friday. Eventually, they will be donated to Indigenous children in foster care.

Students said they are proud to have worked on these projects, which they say will hopefully help Indigenous people heal.

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