Learning together - Ally Gartner, Francine Perante and Brianna Labawig enjoyed taking part in the activities that took place at Kipling School during Truth and Reconciliation Week.

Reconciliation is not a singular event. It is a journey that begins with a willingness to listen and learn.
This past month has brought two opportunities for students at Kipling School to move forward on that journey.
Rhett Larsen was one of teachers that accompanied a group of Kipling students to the Treaty 4 Gathering that was held in Fort Qu’Appelle in mid-September. Larsen says that the experience was “an amazing learning experience.”
“On September 14th we took about 80 students from Grades 7-9 to the Treaty 4 Gathering. It’s something that has been a ‘staple’ on our school calendar for a long time. But Covid interrupted that schedule. So, for many of the students (and for myself) this was the first visit to that event.
“During the Pow Wow, students were not only able to watch the dancing – but take part as well. The announcer was a tremendous speaker who got about 200 – 300 students participating in the Circle Dance – which was awesome. Being a spectator is fine. But kids learn so much more when they’re able to participate.
“There were also different activities and several tipis set up. Students could go into any tipi that they wanted to…listen…ask questions…and learn something different about First Nations culture.”
He notes that the students who attended the gathering were impacted by the experience.
“The students were pretty quiet on the way home from the Treaty 4 Gathering. They were very contemplative. It had been a full day of learning, and students needed some time to process everything they had seen.”
Larsen says that learning continued, as students in Kipling School took part in various activities during Truth and Reconciliation week.
“We had several different things happening last week.
“One of the activities that involved the entire school took place on Wednesday. The high school students teamed up with elementary students and went out to find some rocks. Then they painted those rocks orange and wrote some simple messages like ‘Bravery’, ‘Courage’ and ‘Be Kind’ on them.
“After that, the students went out and left those rocks in different places around town for a few days. The idea was that they would be helping to spread awareness around town.
“Students were also shown a recorded video message from Cowessess First Nations Chief Cadmus Delorme, which was provided to Prairie Valley School Division and viewed by staff in August. During that speech, Delorme spoke of the importance of building relationships by ‘showing you my heart before I show you my hand’. Having the chance to listen to somebody like that helps to break down barriers and encourage students to listen to each other.
“Several classrooms were doing their own activities as well. My kids are in elementary school and yet they were learning about Residential Schools.”
Larsen points out that opportunities like this allow students to learn about a part of their own history that was not given the same attention in the past.
“This is very different from the way it was when I was in school. The last Residential School closed when I was in my Grade 12 year. But I didn’t even know that they existed. This was a part of our province’s history – our country’s history – that really wasn’t talked about.
“Now, students have a chance to learn this history. They have an opportunity to discover more about First Nations culture. Most importantly, these students are being given the chance to share real, living experiences with First Nations’ people and begin to build relationships.”
He adds that other opportunities exist that can facilitate this learning throughout the year.
“Last year, I invited Armand McArthur – a University of Regina Professor who was one of the few people living who spoke the Nakota language – to come and speak with my students – and do some language lessons with them.
“Sadly, Armand McArthur has since passed away. But this year, I’m inviting Vee Whitehorse to come in and do some language lessons as well.
“As a language teacher, I know how much students benefit from having the chance to listen and learn how to communicate in another language. Students develop a better understanding of people who might view the world differently than they do.”
Larsen says that opportunities like this will eventually lead people to true reconciliation.
“I think that this is all part of a process that’s gaining momentum – and I see it only getting better. There isn’t any ‘quick fix’ for the damage that was done in the past. The Residential Schools ran for 140 years. It may take a generation of learning for things to improve. But that education is key.
“If we can find spaces and opportunities to talk and listen – to share our stories and our experiences – we begin to empathize. And once we get to the point where we can put ourselves in someone else’s shoes – we’re half-way there – because that’s the point when reconciliation becomes possible.”

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