Our First Nations Friends

Dear Parents,

This week’s news weighs heavy on our heart, as information unfolds about the sad and tragic discovery at the former residential school in Kamloops.  Roots and Wings Montessori acknowledges the immense hurt and trauma this has caused to the Tk‘emlups te Secwepemc people and to all Canadians.

While many have been regretfully aware of this knowledge for some time, the recent discovery has brought it to the forefront of thought.  This means we need to consider our children’s awareness.  While it is not in their best interest for children to listen to the litany of negativity paraded as mainstream news, they may have heard some of the news, or picked up on related conversations of those around them.  In that case, as teachers, guides and parents, we need to help them understand the situation, in a way that meets their individual needs.

I’m sure we all agree that the basic message, part of the founding principles of Roots & Wings, is that all people are created equal, that no one is better than anyone else.  Whether we’re seeing colour, gender, culture, religion, health, appearance, prowess, economic situation or history, we are all equal in the eyes of our Creator.  We live these truths every day and teach them to our children.  

This may be sufficient for many of the children at this time.  A few simple questions will tell you if they need more.  E.g.  “Did you hear someone was sad about something today?  Do you know why?” or “Is there anything you’re wondering about?  Do you have any questions?”

If it seems they are aware and need more information, here is a sample explanation – one we explored when one of our elementary school parents told our 9 – 12 year olds (including his son) about his experience in a residential school.  Obviously this is for older children, but your gentle questions will tell you what part, if any, your child needs.  Or maybe you have a better explanation!  Please feel free to share it.

We know that everyone is worthy of the same respect, that no one is better than anyone else.  But did you know that everybody doesn’t know that?  Did you know that many years ago, most people didn’t know that.  That a whole big group of people thought they were better than everyone else.  They thought that if others could be like them, they would be happier.  Can you believe that?!  Because of that, people tried to make their skin the same light colour as theirs, so they could be more valued.  Some people tried to change the shape of their eyelids to be like theirs, so they would look better and be more respected.  And the people who thought they were the best went around the world taking other people’s countries and trying to make everyone like them.  They didn’t even try to learn about the people who already lived in those countries, and they didn’t even ask!  They just took over their land, and because they didn’t think the First People were important, they thought it was okay.  Crazy huh?!

In Canada, the first Prime Minister, Sir John A McDonald, was a great man, because he worked so, so hard to build a railroad across Canada to make us one country.  If he hadn’t done that, there wouldn’t even be Canada as we know it now.  BUT he thought just like everyone else – he thought if he could make the first people who lived there just like his people, they would be civilized and educated and successful.  He didn’t realize they already had a wonderful civilization full of love and respect and art and creativity and caring for the earth.  Because of the ignorance of his time, he made a law that their whole culture should end, that they shouldn’t talk their language any more or have their celebrations or hunt and fish and live off the land as they did so well.  This is the really sad part:  he and the other country leaders made a law that said the children should be taken away from their parents and made to live in schools – they called them “residential schools” because the children all lived there together.  They weren’t allowed to see their parents or speak their language.  And some of them – most of them – were treated very, very badly.  

Nowadays most of us have learned much more about respecting others and understanding how differences make us great, instead of everyone trying to be the same.  Think about how much we enjoy all our different friends.  Aren’t you so very glad we understand now that every single person is special?  I think people are getting better and better all the time, don’t you?

There was more in the news this week about how mean the teachers were to those poor children, and that’s why a lot of people are feeling bad.  We’re trying to think of how to show the First Nations people how sorry we are – and how glad we are that we understand better now and will never let it happen again.  Lots of people are wearing orange shirts to show everyone how much we care.  What do you think?

Would you like to wear an orange shirt?  Or send a message to the First Nations people?

I hope there is something in this message of value to you and your child(ren).  If you would like to continue these conversations,  http://www.trc.ca/reconciliation/trc-initiatives/it-matters.html is an excellent resource from Truth and Reconciliation commission of Canada and here is an informative 4 minute video for those ready for it.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zuRQmwaREY

On Friday, June 04th, we encourage our children and staff to wear orange shirt and accessories to show our support to the Indigenous people and a reminder that Every Child Matters.

I hope that together, the Roots and Wings staff, along with our parent community, can provide some perspective to our young people to understand the atrocities that have occurred to our First Nations people for decades and how we can contribute to the healing of our country.

Roots & Wings Team