Photograph by Kelly Sikkema
It may prove challenging for parents to answer questions from children about residential schools and reconciliation.
When questions do arise, the Principal of Indigenous Education in the Cowichan Valley School District, Charlie Coleman, recommends that parents instead ask what their children have learned on the subject.
Students in the district are now being taught about it, which wasn’t the situation when most of their parents attended school.
Despite the best intentions, Coleman warns that parents risk exposing unconscious biases.
“Depending how you grew up, or where you grew up, or when you grew up, you probably have some unconscious biases in thoughts and opinions and feelings about Indigenous people in general.”
The history of residential schools was simply not taught at school in the past and, in Coleman’s words, “we have a lot of unlearning to do, and then a lot of new learning to do”
Within the school district, he says “trying to get the truth out there, first to our staff, and then to our kids, and then, hopefully, to the whole community,” has been one of the priorities.
Coleman recommends listening and reading on the subject.
He says there is a lot of good information that can be found online, but warns people to be cautious about the source.
Coleman says National Day of Truth and Reconciliation should be seen as a memorial day to remember “all of those children who we are now finding in an unmarked graves,” and to celebrate the survivors of residential schools and the children of those survivors.
He says it has required a lot of resilience for the survivors of residential schools and their children to deal with the intergenerational trauma that has affected the Indigenous community in so many ways.