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R.B. Russell Designs Unique Shirts For Truth And Reconciliation Awareness

September 29, 2021
RB Russell Orange Shirts

The scent of ink is fresh in the air at R.B. Russell High School as students carefully move shirts from the press to the drying table. John Sobkovich’s Graphic Arts students have been preparing T-shirts with their original artwork to outfit their class and school staff to commemorate National Truth and Reconciliation Week, with a couple of installations from our art and horticulture classes.

The students designed the shirts to represent their Graphic Arts class and to demonstrate their knowledge of residential schools. Each design incorporates Indigenous teachings, perspectives, and history into the artwork and meets curricular outcomes. Teacher John Sobkovich and his family live with the legacies of residential schools, and his care toward his students who share this legacy and its lingering effects is palpable. 

“I attended a technical vocational school and being an Indigenous educator means helping students weave this history as they express themselves creatively,” shared Sobkovich. “I am proud to know and speak Cree and Michif and I want my students to be proud of their Indigenous culture too.” As a proud spouse and father of three children, he brings his excitement about teaching his classes and encourages students to express themselves in their artwork and then bring that artwork to life on the screen for digital design or as fashion with shirt design. 

Having worked in the graphics and print industry for years and then getting his Bachelor of Education with a Vocational Education, teacher John Sobkovich was eager to work with students excited about learning. 

“The students who come through my class are so energetic and creative. With this project especially, we wanted to use Indigenous teachings and symbols in the artwork. Their designs were so thoughtful and respectful of the history and legacy that residential schools have in our culture and every day for many of the students here.” The nine images chosen by the students from Grades 11 and 12 reflect a variety of Indigenous inspired figures, icons, and teachings. 

Looking at their work from the previous year, the skill and improvement is noticeable. The delicate artwork is being transferred onto the shirts using the digital heat press method in their lab. While some shirts arrived with an image already on the front, the class was eager to make these shirts distinct by adding their unique artwork on the back—and that’s exactly what they did. This first nationally recognized Truth and Reconciliation week at R.B. Russell will bring the school community together with one goal: to honour the lives and legacies of all affected by residential schools then and now. 


National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation is located in Winnipeg at the University of Manitoba. Part of the mandate of the NCTR is to house the statements, documents and other artifacts gathered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and to make them accessible to all Canadians. As a result the NCTR continues to create ways to ensure that teachers and students are able to access primary and secondary source documents. The website provides access to the following: 

  • Links to a variety of educational resources that can be used in the classroom (Educational Resource Tab under “Resources”) 
  • Access to the NCTR database (Access Your Archive Tab under “Access the Database”). Examples of documents that teachers and students are able to access include but are not limited to: descriptions of Residential schools, student enrollment records, school newsletters, photographs, news stories and financial records.

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