Until Sept. 30, hundreds of orange ribbons will hang on a trail at Riverside Public School.
Students each wrote the name of Indigenous children who died at a residential school on each ribbon, and hung them on trees along the trail, ahead of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
“We need to begin to teach our youth about what happened in Canada at residential schools,” says Meghan deLagran, the teacher who organized the project. “I only learned about it when I was in university, and I was completely flabbergasted that somehow this got missed in my education. So it’s time that we bring this to all Canadians, but in particular, our students need to know the truth.”
DeLagran says pages from the book “Stolen Words” by Melanie Florence are hung to be read along the trail. The book tells the story of a Cree man and his granddaughter, seeking to reclaim the language he was forbidden to learn as a child.
“The trauma and pain that happened at residential schools continues in our society today,” says deLagran. “[Indigenous Peoples] in Canada are still suffering, and we need to know the truth about it.”
According to deLagran, the walk is up on Riverside’s main trail for students only until Sept. 29, and will be open to the general public the next day.
“We wanted it to be in a place where students would see it often because putting them on a back trail would just be perpetuating the idea of hiding away these children, who have already been hidden away for too long,” says deLagran. “So we’re putting it on the main trail at Riverside, that the children will pass by on a regular basis, and that we can have open conversations about those ribbons more often.”
DeLagran thanks Mohawk resident Joyce Crone, who provided the ribbons for the project. As a consultant on Indigenous matters, and a former educator herself, Crone says she’s overjoyed to see an initiative like this happen.
“I would love to see every single school get an orange ribbon in the hand of each child, and take that home so that the family and children know what it means,” says Crone. “I’m thrilled that there’s a school that wants to recognize and acknowledge what’s happened.”
The Trillium Lakelands District School Board will host a livestream with Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Holders speaking on “truth, resiliency, and the importance of being part of Truth and Reconciliation.” That’s on Sept. 29 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., and from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. on the board’s website, with a recording available afterwards.
The Huntsville Public Library has also put up a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation display, to help parents teach their kids about residential schools.