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Celebrating our voices

Main photo by Mikayla Carter, Tec Voc Photography

Students from across WSD gathered at R.B. Russell Vocational High School on May 26 for the 13th Annual WSD Indigenous Gallery Walk.

“This is a celebration and acknowledgement of all of the wonderful work our schools are doing,” said Aboriginal Education Director Rob Riel. “There has been a ton of growth.”

The day offered the opportunity for students and schools to share their learning in Indigenous languages such as Cree and Ojibwe, as well as to showcase their Indigenous Education projects in a gallery setting in the school’s gymnasium.

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Photo by Mikayla Carter, Tec Voc Photography

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Carol Beaulieu of Indigenous Languages of Manitoba, who was one of the featured speakers at the event, said learning these languages can be a challenging but rewarding goal.

“Most Indigenous languages are very complicated and very extensive…you can’t learn them in a year. The average is anywhere from five to seven years,” she said.

“We don’t have a lot of early childhood introduction due to all of the cultural interruptions we’ve had over the last 100 years or so. But it’s coming back, and it’s wonderful to see…we are the only ones to have (these languages) and we’re the only ones that can keep it going. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

St. John’s High School student Brandon Wood said he was glad to see Indigenous perspectives and traditions being celebrated and taught in schools.

“I see children singing in languages like Ojibwe and it’s so touching…it’s good for us, it’s a historic thing,” he said. “There’s a bad history of these cultural traditions and ceremonies being prohibited…this is helping to make people aware of what happened and it’s giving them knowledge.”

The day got off to an energetic start with Elders Wanbdi Wakita and Myra Laramee (who also works as WSD’s Traditional Knowledge Keeper), as well as a smudge ceremony.

The previous evening, WSD invited over 175 parents from 65 different schools to R.B. Russell to help the Advisory Council on Indigenous Education (which is an ad hoc committee of the Board of Trustees) to review its current Aboriginal Education policy. The ultimate goal is to set the course for Aboriginal Education policy in the years to come.

“It’s something that is needed…we have been working from our current policy for a decade,” Mr. Riel said.

“This is step one of a multi-step process. We still have review with our principals as a group, our teachers, support staff such as consultants and Clinical Support Services, and then we still have to review with the most important group: our students.”

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WSD was established in 1871 and currently has 78 schools, 33,000 students and 6,000 employees. Its purpose is to provide a learning environment that fosters the growth of each student's potential and provide equitable opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and values necessary for meaningful participation in a global and diverse society.


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