Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education is using the entire month to of September acknowledge National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, seeing it as a chance to honour and celebrate Indigenous culture and history.
Rod Willier has recently been onboarded by MHCBE as an Indigenous Support Worker. His role is to teach wellness in the classrooms, and he finds there is a “sense of pride now that the schools are starting to teach the kids more about our Canadian history.”
“Rod comes from an Indigenous heritage and yet he is on his own reconciliation journey just like everyone else, everyone is at different points along their education and understanding,’ added MHCBE associate superintendent of learning services Hugh Lehr “The incentive behind Rod’s position is wellness is up and front in everything we do. Rod will be teaching wellness through an Indigenous perspective for the whole division. He is also supporting our students and staff along their journey of reconciliation. It’s more than just Sept. 30, it’s about the education and understanding building up to what Sept. 30 means.”
Each Monday there has been a collaborative effort to put posts up on MHCBE’s Facebook and Instagram. The posts are centred around themes to inspire students, staff and families. The first post was Indigenous places and spaces. Indigenous literature, artists and inventions were the focus of the second post. Next week the post will go up on Tuesday and will be about community events hosted by the Miywasin Friendship Centre.
During the week of Sept. 30, Willier will be going to every school and giving a presentation on Orange Shirt Day, residential school and why we celebrate.
For senior high students, Rod is going to “incorporate a couple of little things that happened to Indigenous kids while they were at school, such as giving them different names or a number. Hopefully, with the senior high kids, that will help it hit home a little bit more.”
While growing up, Willier says he asked his Kokom (grandmother) to teach him Cree and she refused because it was put in her head for so long that it was the wrong language to speak.
“For Indigenous people, the big one is our identity and culture, going back to our language, they were forbidden to speak it in residential schools. Our language is how our elders taught us, with stories and hunting and trapping, powwows and music. All things we were forbidden to do. I lost the language. Some of my uncles lost the language and are on their own journey learning it back and getting it back into their cultural identities. I’m slowly starting to relearn Cree, which I found out is really hard.”
SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News