I was walking down the hallway at LCI and stopped at the Orange Shirt Day bulletin board where one of our Grade 7 students was carefully reading the ideas on each shirt, many with the motto “Every Child Matters”. His question “doesn’t every child matter every day?” stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t the thought of children mattering that gave me pause, it was the thought that sometimes we honor and remember but forget to carry that honoring and remembering forward.
I had just come back from attending an mRLC session (Manitoba Rural Learning Consortium), “Indigenous Learning Through Classroom Curriculum and Pedagogy” where we were encouraged to find ways of incorporating Indigenous learning into our everyday classroom experience. Adrian (Mr. Pecold, Gr. 7) and I had spent the day planning and brainstorming ways to incorporate Indigenous perspectives throughout our year; realizing the importance of not leaving Orange Shirt Day as a one and done experience for our students. We thought of ways to modify the units we always do and give them a wider, more inclusive perspective. We decided to do think about Remembrance Day from an Indigenous perspective, so we planned a short unit that included the 7 Sacred teachings. It was learning outside of our wheelhouse, but that’s the excitement of teaching.
We led our Grade 7’s through a gallery walk of images from both WWI and WWII and included a picture of the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument and Winnipeg City Hall. Did you know that in 1994, Winnipeg City Council inaugurated “Aboriginal Veterans Day” in 1994, and has it has since spread nationwide? We talked about how many aboriginal veterans were ignored, and many not given veterans benefits because they didn’t have to serve – they were not conscripted. We read Manitoba author, David Robertson’s book, “The Scout”, about Tommy Prince, a Manitoban war hero, whose statue stands in Kildonan Park, in Winnipeg. We explored 2 of the 7 Sacred teachings, Courage and Respect, and how they are both particularly important teachings to consider around Remembrance Day. For our students, like for us, most of what we were learning about was new; we didn’t know Manitoba had it’s own Indigenous War hero who had been decorated for bravery.
The experience was a good reminder to both of us that it wasn’t that hard to change up our usual Remembrance Day unit to include stories of Indigenous Manitoba heroes and explore their experiences both during and after the war. We have started brainstorming; what are other ways we can be more inclusive in our lesson planning and incorporate stories that are not told often enough?