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This article was published 23/5/2018 (971 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A local school is turning something that has resulted in much harm into an ever-lasting pledge with their community.
On June 1 at 9:45 a.m., David Livingstone Community School (270 Flora Ave.) will unveil a community mural that is the result of a two-year project that comprised the themes of reconciliation and treaty history.
During colonization, many treaties were signed between the Indigenous peoples in Canada and the Crown, describing exchanges of interests and were viewed as sacred covenants between nations, forming a constitutional alliance. Over the years, promises were made and broken and the term "treaties" gained a negative connotation among Indigenous people.
To change that perception and bring about healing among students, staff, community, and families, David Livingstone has worked with people from the four groups to create a community treaty that describes the responsibilities and rights of each of them.
In the fall of 2016, teachers started working with their students in creating treaties for classrooms.
"Instead of having class rules, I refer to this (the treaty) and this is where I can hold them to this standard and they can also hold me if I’m not doing one of the things I said I would. They can point and say ‘You’re not holding up here,’" Talitha Kaethler, integrated arts teacher at David Livingstone and the project co-ordinator for the Treaty Mosaic Project, said.
At the end of June 2017, the school put all the information gathered from parents, students, staff and community organizations that surround the school together and launched its community treaty with a week of celebrations and activities.
This past fall, the school, and the community started working on the project’s final component, a mosaic mural that will be installed at one of the school’s old doors, facing a field where kids play, Lord Selkirk Park Housing, and Turtle Island Community Centre. The mural will remind the community of the treaty they made with each other and become a symbol to newcomers living in the area.
"I think there have been a lot of mistakes made in schools (in the past), and the idea that the old door is closed and taking the old and remaking it as new is very symbolic," Kaethler said.
The mosaic’s design was created by the students and local mosaic artist Ursula Neufeld, who came into the school with the technical skills, to train and build the piece with the community. She worked in small groups and taught them how to cut and shape tiles and composition. Students and Neufeld consulted with local elders to ensure that the project was reflective of their culture.
Neufeld has been working with community and school projects around Winnipeg for more than 10 years. She said she feels grateful for having the opportunity to work with David Livingstone in this project.
"I’m so proud of the school for tacking this controversial topic and bringing into a very positive light, teaching kids how to have a respectful treaty where they can reconfigure the democracy and make a more balanced type of treaty which was supposed to happen many years ago," she said. "They are learning what is like to be heard, to be respected and to be treated democratically."
The mosaic is hugely significant to the community, Kaethler said.
Demographically, 61.8 per cent of families served by David Livingstone identify themselves as Indigenous — the highest rate found across the Winnipeg School Division. According to WSD records, 63.6 percent of David Livingstone’s elementary students and 71.4 per cent of secondary students are Indigenous
"I think that the healing that this generation is going to bring to our broken community and country — I stand in awe of what they are already doing and they are going to do more," Kaethler said. "They are so different from each other, they come from different places, they have different nations that they belong to, and they are open to working with each other. The different voices aren’t a problem. Is not that they all agree, but they don’t have a problem with disagreeing. That’s not where it ends."
Kaethler also said the different groups of the project connect to each other through the circle. A student is a community member and is part of a family, she explained.
"You can look for something that connects with you whether it’s a colour or image and then you’re in it, then you see that you are invested and that you are a part of it."
Neufeld added the mosaic will last for 100 years or more, reminding all generations that come through the school and community of this important treaty.
"Mosaics have been around for thousands and thousands of years. They don’t just go away."
All community members are invited to attend the unveiling of the mosaic.
Community journalist — The Times
Ligia Braidotti was the community journalist for The Times.