Students at Creston Valley High School (formerly Prince Charles) worked on reconciliation with their own projects, including an art installation of a boarding school hall.
In Canada, there were 130 residential schools operating between 1874 and 1996.
The school system was created with the aim of removing indigenous children from the influence of their own families in order to eliminate all aspects of their language and culture.
Young children were forcibly removed from their homes after residential school attendance became mandatory by law in the 1920s. Their parents were threatened with jail if they refused.
The high school art installation reflects the horror stories of abuse and loneliness told by many survivors. A full room was decorated with a small bed, chair, school uniform, and written notes with pleas for help. The bedroom door has bars on the window, like a prison cell.
Teacher Ki Louie assisted the students on the project and said they responded with some very powerful thoughts.
“What struck me the most was the way they were punished,” said student Nadine Persad. “Some of them had really had severe punishments.”
She hoped other students would better understand the history of Indigenous assimilation in Canada by viewing the art installation.
âI’m glad we made the room because I saw students looking at it and being shocked at what they saw,â Persad said. âThe truth must be shown in an attempt to rebuild what has been shattered. It’s not something we can go back and fix because it’s done, but we can rebuild now and in the future as best we can. “
Another student, Riley Lotus, was able to visualize how lonely Indigenous students felt when separated from loved ones.
âIt’s a part of Canadian history, and it’s not something to take a look at,â said Lotus. âIt had a major impact on many people and communities. It should not be overlooked or forgotten because it was such a traumatic experience. “
For many of the students involved, it was a learning experience about how children were truly treated. While some had heard of the residential schools before, others expressed surprise when they learned of the atrocities.
âHorrible things have happened behind the walls of these buildings,â another student said in a think tank. (Names were hidden as homework was graded.) âI feel like what happened left a stain on our nation. It is important that everyone in Canada recognizes the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples. It will also help reduce the chances that toxic behavior will reoccur. “
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Creston Valley Indigenous Reconciliation