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This article was published 25/3/2019 (300 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Sisler High School held its first Indigenous relations panel discussion on March 13.
During the panel discussion, students, staff and special guests listened to Sen. Mary Jane McCallum, Winnipeg Central MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette and Damon Johnston, president of the Winnipeg Aboriginal Council.
Greg Shedden, head of Sisler’s department of social sciences, wanted his students to learn about Indigenous issues from Indigenous leaders. In April of 2018, he set aside time for his graduating students to do just that, in order to learn about residential schools, Indigenous relations and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Those meetings led him to create a panel where more students would be able to learn directly from Indigenous people.
"I wanted them to have a chance to feel it, to learn it, to see it, to think about it," Shedden said. "This is real. This isn’t your boring, white teacher standing in front of the room trying to teach something. Everybody wanted (the panel) to happen."
Guests were asked to answer questions on their personal experiences as an Indigenous person, the Indian Act, residential schools and other issues of Indigenous relations, such as their reactions to the Truth and Reconciliation report and the 94 Calls to Action and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report. They also talked about the future, their concerns and hopes.
"Our students, many of them are immigrants or second generation, will hopefully leave here with what their parents and event with what I never had, which is a visceral understanding and not just academic learning memorized for a test," Shedden said.
"There’s going to be questions, there’s going to be thought, and there’s going to be discussions that are going to come from this. This is just a seed; this is just the beginning of something bigger. Students can’t say that they didn’t know. They are now compelled to be part of the solution because they know the problems."
Grade 12 students Katrina Martin said all students benefit significantly from the panel discussions because they are hearing directly from Indigenous people who have experienced the issues of Indigenous relations.
"I think any educated Canadian person should know about what Indigenous people went through and what residential schools put them through, ways that we can help them and become good citizens of Canada and having more respect by gaining more knowledge about them," Martin said.
Martin said they have gained a broader perspective of the discrimination and racism Indigenous people suffer. They also have heard demeaning comments and said they are scared to see how many people are still oblivious to issues concerning Indigenous people.
"It’s sad that the knowledge that’s being passed out is not factual at all and it’s nowhere near the truth about what they’ve been through," Martin added. "It’s crazy to think that I’ve been in high school for four years and I’m only learning about this now. I think we should have learned about this our entire years of education. It’s not something that you learn when you’re the right age. It’s disrespectful to not know about them."
Community journalist — The Times
Ligia Braidotti is the community journalist for The Times. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org