CALEDONIA/SIX NATIONS — Ten years ago, Six Nations elementary school teacher Suzie Miller was watching the emotional stand-off between citizens of Caledonia and Six Nations land protectors play out on Argyle Street, but from a different perspective.
Although of Six Nations blood, she and her husband Scott are also Caledonia residents and could see the trauma growing on the faces of children from both communities.
In the face of this racism and misunderstanding brewing in the streets, Miller began a Pen-Pals program where her students wrote to a student they did not know from a corresponding Caledonia elementary class.
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best ones, and in the following 10-years lasting friendships have developed between some of these pen-pals, and others got to know and understand that kids are kids no matter what — they have to be taught racism.
“That first year, I must admit I was a bit apprehensive,” says Miller. “I didn’t know if it would work or stir up more tensions with the parents. I did have second thoughts about it.”
The Pen-Pals program has since expanded to several schools in a number of area municipalities involving hundreds of area and Six Nations students.
At the 10th anniversary celebration held at Chiefswood Park recently, pen-pals past and present, gathered for their yearend meeting when the children get to meet their pen-pals face to face.
After a decade of making a difference, the Millers have begun the process of handing elements of the still growing program over to others to carry out as it is becoming so big, but the 10th anniversary was a proud moment for sure.
She was very busy that day, but with a great volunteer staff Miller had a chance to reflect some over the past decade. But she also has a vision for the future of the Pen Pals program.
She is talking about expanding the program into the Northern territories as well, so that kids from here can open up dialogue with kids from Attawapiskat and other reserves in the far north.
The Two Row Times wishes to thank Suzie Miller for seeing through the fog of war, as it were, and seeing the next generation of both Caledonia and Six Nations being tainted by the Douglas Creek, Kanonhstaton conflict, and doing something about it.