‘We take care of each other’

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This article was published 27/06/2016 (2348 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

King Edward Community School is learning through growing.

The North End school held a grand opening and dedication ceremony for its Sacred Heart Garden on June 21. The garden project is the students’ way of honouring residential school survivors and remembering those lost to the residential school system.

King Edward principal Aaron Benarroch said the garden project was inspired by the calls to action released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as Mayor Brian Bowman’s challenge to Winnipeg students to help fight racism and understand diversity.

Photo by Jared Story After delivering an emotional speech at the dedication ceremony for King Edward Community School’s Sacred Heart Garden, residential school survivor Rudy Okemaw was rewarded with hugs from children in the community.

“Our school went on a process of learning about the residential school system, its impact, and our students came up with a plan,” Benarroch said.

The plan included Grade 3 and 6 students building a medicine wheel garden, with the Grade 3 students planting four sacred plants: tobacco, sage, sweet grass and cedar. King Edward students placed paper hearts around and throughout the garden.  

“Each one of the hearts that are planted in here has a student’s statement and hope for reconciliation,” Benarroch said.

In addition to the garden, King Edward students and R.B. Russell Vocational High School students designed metal silhouettes of children playing. The silhouettes, each displaying one of the seven sacred teachings, are positioned on the fence surrounding the schoolyard.

“Each child playing represents a child whose descendants could have been here playing with us, children that either didn’t survive residential schools or they lost their childhood in the residential school system,” Benarroch said. “We commemorate that and we remember them. They are here in spirit playing alongside us.”

Also, Grade 6 students wrote a poem explaining the garden and silhouettes that is etched into a plaque on a boulder next to the garden.

Photo by Jared Story King Edward students, staff and parents were on hand for the unveiling of the school’s Sacred Heart Garden.

During the ceremony, a student smudged the garden, silhouettes and plaque, two students read the poem, and a student choir sang a flute song titled Mother Earth.

The ceremony also included speeches by Benarroch, Coun. Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas), Minister of Indigenous and Municipal Relations Eileen Clarke, Winnipeg School Division trustee Mike Babinsky, and most notably, WSD elder Myra Laramee and residential school survivor Rudy Okemaw.

Okemaw delivered a very emotional speech, tears running down his cheeks and his voice trembling as he recounted his time spent at a residential school on Academy Road.

“As a residential school survivor many emotions come flooding in, because we were lost, no mother, no father, no brother, no sister, no comfort when we were in school,” Okemaw said.

“I love these children because when I was there, nobody ever said to me ‘I love you.’”

After the ceremony was over, Okemaw was greeted with hugs from children and parents.

Photo by Jared Story King Edward students wrote messages of honour and solidarity on hearts that they planted around the garden.

In addition to the garden project, King Edward students renamed its school teams the Wolves, dropping its former handle, the Royals.

“A wolf represents humility because of its giving nature and devotion to protecting and working for the good of the wolf family and the welfare of the pack. That’s who we are here at King Edward School; we take care of each other,” Benarroch said.

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