Translating Reconciliation

·2 min read

Teacher and West End resident Karla Dueck Thiessen is answering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's 94 Calls to Action around education by providing Indigenous language translations of her mindful breathing book for children, It Starts With a Breath.

Her church's Truth and Reconciliation Committee, with support from Winnipeg councillors Kevin Klein and Cindy Gilroy, received a $1,500 Winnipeg Wellness Grant—a grant program set up by the City of Winnipeg to support initiatives that reduce the emotional, physical and spiritual stress of COVID-19.

"With that money, we used it to give an honorarium to two Indigenous educators to translate the book into Anishinaabe and Cree," said Dueck Thiessen.

Then her church, River East Church, raised $6,200 to print 1000 copies of the translated books, which will be given to Indigenous students at the schools where the Indigenous translators work, as well as libraries and community groups that work with Indigenous families.

The Indigenous translators, teachers Gloria Barker of Riverbend Community School and Lorraine George of Isaac Brock School, finished their work at the end of June and the printed copies of the book are being distributed this month.

George, who provided the Cree translation, said she sees the translated books as a reconciliation step. She will use the book with her Grade 3, 4 and 5 students to teach Indigenous language and do mindfulness exercises.

"Bringing the languages back that were lost in residential schools...I see it as a reversal. The schools, which are provincially-funded, they are giving back."

One of the children in the translated book is an Indigenous girl from George's classroom wearing a ribbon skirt.

"Having that (photo) there, that also shows reconciliation because the kids are allowed to wear their traditional clothing...it's not only that they're learning language, they're also learning their culture," said George.

Dueck Thiessen says she has seen the mindfulness techniques in her book help children in her classroom ground themselves and acknowledge feelings like anger and sadness and be able to move past them in a positive way.

"I have children even as young as three who completely get the concept of mindful breath, and it's really transformed my classroom in having kids be able to self-regulate and be self-aware."

The Indigenous translations, as well as Spanish, are free for viewing on YouTube. Search for the English version to find links to the translations. A Hebrew version is also in the works.

Currently only the English version is available for sale in print. Winnipeg locations include CommonWord Bookstore, Prairie Sky Books, McNally Robinson, and Toad Hall Toys.

Sean Ledwich, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leaf

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