"What Will You Do?"

Caption: Student leaders gathered at Six Nations Community Hall

Two years ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of

Canada outlined 94 calls to action meant to begin repairing the harm caused by the residential school system. The 63rd item on the list forms a foundation for Grand Erie’s Indigenous student leadership planning day: “Build student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.”

On Thursday, October 12, Indigenous student leaders from eight Grand Erie secondary schools came together to start this important work by sharing ideas and setting goals. After this day, they will return to Cayuga Secondary School, McKinnon Park Secondary School, Hagersville Secondary School, Brantford Collegiate Institute and Vocational School, Pauline Johnson Collegiate and Vocational School, Tollgate Technological Skills Centre, North Park Collegiate Vocational School, and Waterford District High School with concrete plans for the year ahead.

Through each school’s Indigenous Club, they will meet regularly, plan programming and events, share information, and carry out the intention of the calls to action with their fellow students. Grand Erie’s Indigenous Education team, which planned the day, will be there to provide support throughout the year.

“Starting high school is a big transition, and it brings opportunities to share our culture and values, and change viewpoints,” said Gene Jamieson, guest speaker and Pauline Johnson C&VS graduate. “It’s a chance to step out into the larger community and proudly say who you are and where you come from.”

A man wearing a suit smilesCaption: Guest speaker Gene Jamieson

Jamieson concluded his motivational talk with an observation and an invitation: “You have brilliant ideas, and change will happen through the impact you have. What will you do?”

That’s the question each Indigenous Club will answer.

It begins with brainstorming sessions to generate ideas, and before long, dozens of poster-sized papers line the room with actions.

“Learn traditional languages, and share a word of the day on the morning announcements.”

“Host a powwow.”

“Start a lacrosse team.”

“A place to practice and learn native arts without grades or judgement involved.”

From here, the Indigenous Education team shared steps for putting these ideas into action. They highlighted the importance of connecting to the whole school, and the wider community. They help each club begin to set measurable objectives. They also chart a course of action for how they’ll gauge success and make improvements to future plans.

Seven student leaders pose at a table during an event

Caption: Student leaders from Waterford District High School, one of eight Grand Erie secondary schools that participated

“We risk losing our history, culture, and traditions that have been passed on from our elders if we don’t educate younger generations,” said Tasha Truckle, Grade 10 student at Waterford District High School. “Our club will welcome everyone, and provide that education to the whole school.”

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