By Madelaine McCracken (she/her), Métis; M.Ed.; Education and Public Engagement Co-ordinator, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
Reconciliation is all of us and we, at the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (Caring Society), care deeply about empowering children, youth, the public, and educators to actionize reconciliation. We offer initiatives for teachers and schools to reflect upon learning and enact reconciliation-based lessons with students, and beyond.
Calls to Action
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released their Calls to Action, which is a list of 94 ways truth-telling and action-taking can take place in educational settings, government institutions, community organizations, and in society overall. These calls were created by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples who are residential school Survivors, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and community members.
As the esteemed former Senator and Chairperson for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Murray Sinclair says, “Education got us into this mess and education will get us out of it.” We believe in this statement wholeheartedly with compassion, love, kindness, and truth. Spirit Bear, the Caring Society’s Ambearrister, who personifies these values, shares Spirit Bear’s Guide to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action that can teach children and youth, through accessible language, how they can take up the Calls to Action in their own ways.
Spirit Bear shares his experiences of understanding justice, inequities, residential schools, Truth and Reconciliation, and generational learning from his family and friends like Era Bear, Mary the Bear, Uncle Huckleberry, Cindy the Sheep, and children too. Spirit Bear’s books are accessible online for free, or you can order and buy your own copy. To accompany the books, there are learning guides and films that teachers can use that share key concepts and understandings from his stories. Spirit Bear now has a movie that tells the story of how he and children bear-ed witness at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal for Jordan’s Principle, and how this work is still being done today. We also offer the Reconciliation Ambearristers program that guides educators and groups to host their own Ambearrister, who is a friend of Spirit Bear’s, and take up the Caring Society’s initiatives with their classrooms and communities.
It is important for educators to learn about, teach, and commemorate intergenerational residential school experiences of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. It is also a time to honour the children who have been found in unmarked graves at former residential schools. Even today, schools ought to be a safe and comfy place for all. Shannen Koostachin and her friends showed Canada the bad conditions of her school at Attawapiskat First Nation. First Nations children and youth deserve equitable access to schools on their territories, free from unsafe learning environments and from barriers.
Shannen’s Dream is a campaign that continues Shannen’s work for all First Nations children and youth. Canada needs to better fund schools on and off reserves for First Nations students so they can be as successful as any other Canadian student attending school: to live their dreams in ways that uplift their cultural identities. School is a Time for Dreams offers educational resources for teachers to take up with their classrooms to make Shannen’s dream a reality for First Nations children and youth across Canada.
Letters to Dr. Henderson Bryce
In light of Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30, we are asking the public to reconcile history, and to send letters to Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, who was a whistle-blower that brought attention to the terrible conditions of residential schools back in 1907. Send your letters to c/o Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, Beechwood Cemetery, 280 Beechwood Avenue, Ottawa, ON, K1L 8A6. To this day, we are grateful for Dr. Bryce’s efforts to make a difference for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
Spirit Bear cannot do this work alone; this is why we encourage educators and school communities to participate in our initiatives to actionize reconciliation and make a difference!
Find these resources
Visit the following link tree to access educational resources from the Caring Society shared in this article and for additional resources for Truth and Reconciliation: https://linktr.ee/FNCaringSocietyEdResources