Over 320 teachers and staff members from the Northeast School Division visited neighboring Indigenous communities Friday to learn about how they can take reconciliation into the classroom.
Sharon Meyer, one of the organizers of the event works as the First Nation and Metis consultant in the Northeast School Division. She wanted to give teachers the chance to become students on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
“I thought what better way to create relationships and experiences,” Meyer said. “Many teachers have never been in a first nations school or on a first nations location. This is an opportunity to share in the presence of our first nation teachers, knowledge keepers, and elders in their home territory.
In total, four different Indigenous communities were visited by the staff. 84 of them made their way to Muskoday First Nation, while others travelled to Cumberland House Metis Nation, Kenaston, and One Arrow.
At Muskoday First Nations School, teachers began the morning with an assembly talking about the importance of the day and sharing their stories.
“This is something that has been a long time coming,” said Elwin Bear, a Kindergarten to Grade 12 and post-secondary education coordinator for Muskoday First Nation.
“And to have (these school divisions) come in, it shows they are willing to listen and learn what actions need to be taken in their school division in order to help not just Indigenous children but all children that we share this earth.”
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Teachers were also given the opportunity to go through workshops with elders, drummers and ribbon skirt makers.
For Meyers, she said it is a chance for teachers to learn why it is important and how to implement it in the classroom.
“For classroom teachers, they are instilling this knowledge into the students who will become our leaders and I think they are doing a really good job about building that background for students,” Meyers said.
For teachers in attendance such as Melissa McFarland, a kindergarten teacher at Brunswick Elementary School, it was a day to learn and reflect.
“For so long the truth has been hidden and in order to move forward in reconciliation, we have to understand the truth and bring the truth forward,” she said. “We are here to spend time and listen and learn the truth about residential schools and (what) our step is in moving forward to build relationships in reconciliation.”
Meyers hopes the teachers leave Muskoday with a better sense of understanding of truth and reconciliation they can share with their students. But amongst all the lessons that were taught, Meyers has a special one for teachers.
“Truth and reconciliation is all about building relationships and it’s about action,” she said. “I have this motto that reconciliation is a noun, but your actions and ability to make it come alive makes it into a verb.”