BRANTFORD – A new initiative developed by the Grand Erie District School Board is helping students and teachers live out some of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action.
The initiative titled, “Living the Two Row” project kicked off on Friday, March 3 at Pauline Johnson Collegiate in Brantford with a student conference. Approximately one hundred students from Hagersville Secondary, Brantford Collegiate, North Park Collegiate, Tollgate Tech, MacKinnon Park Secondary, and Pauline Johnson participated.
“The project is the board’s way of furthering its commitment to implement the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action,” said Jeannie Martin, indigenous support and engagement teacher. “The TRC identifies three areas that need to be included in our education programs; residential school history, impacts of colonialism, and treaty rights. This is the first step of our initiative and we’re really excited that the school board is moving forward in this way.”
The student conference took place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the students were a part of lessons taught by speakers such as; Professor Rick Monture from McMaster University, Haudenosaunee Faithkeeper Leroy “Jock” Hill, Lance Logan-Key of the Old Mush Singers, and others.
“The project includes a few more days of activities that will take place after March Break,” said Martin. “Some students from today’s conference will participate in more in-depth learning about the community and land rights and they will then prepare a presentation that they will present to staff.
“One of the goals is to empower youth to not only learn of aboriginal land and treaty rights, but to also empower them to go out on their own and speak about it afterwards.”
Hill spoke on several topics including some of the history behind the Two Row Wampum, the Peacemaker’s journey, life before European contact and more. Hill also showed the students a Condolence Cane he carved himself.
“It took me the good part of a year to carve this cane,” said Hill, further explaining the history of original canes and how taking the time to make something with his hands really helped him care about its history.
“Woodworking for me meant I had to do something with my hands while I was learning, and it really helped me get into what I was doing.”
Singer/songwriter and Indigenous Youth Mentor Lacey Hill was also there to spend time with the youth. The day also included a variety of interactive learning activities and Logan-Key taught the students and teachers a traditional Round Dance and had young men from the audience come on stage to sing and play along.
“We asked people to come speak at the event who we knew speak well about the topic we wanted to present today,” said Martin. “We wanted speakers to talk about some treaties that really reflect our relationship with each other and our relationship with the land because that’s what the treaties are all about.”
Martin said that the next few activities will include more information about local land rights concerning New Credit and Six Nations.