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Albert Campbell Staff Explore the Secret Path

Albert Campbell Staff Explore the Secret Path

Monday, December 19, 2016
Categories: Great Things, Happenings @ TDSB, School Web Stories

Every morning across the TDSB, students start their day with the words “I would like to acknowledge that this school is situated on territorial lands…”  But why?  And how can we decode the reading for our students?

It has been said that in order to understand what it means to be Canadian, it is important to not just understand our Indigenous roots, but to understand that those roots predate our confederation.  Further, it is imperative to explore the treatment of natives, which has essentially occurred for the entire existence of our country.

So, with that shared burden, and through the context of the ancestral lands and territories acknowledgement, at the professional development day in December, staff at Albert Campbell Collegiate opened a discourse that started with the viewing of Gord Downie’s “Secret Path”, a compelling indictment of the Residential School System.

For 45 minutes, staff were transported to a lonely stretch of railway track near Kenora, Ontario, and experienced the story of Chanie Wenjack, a 12 year-old Ojibwa boy from a reservation near Martin Falls, Ontario.  He was taken from his family, and sent to a residential school nearly 600km away from home.  He escaped from the school, and spent his last days trying to walk home to see his father.  After 36 hours of Northern Ontario’s punishing autumn weather, he succumbed to the elements, and died.

When the movie was over, staff broke into smaller groups for open discussion, leading questions, or to work with parts of the text in Gord Downie’s poems.

For some, the session was an exploration of Indigenous cultures and their marginalization.  For others, it was a poignant reminder of the importance to reflect on all marginalized cultures, and to heed the call to be equitable to all.  For all in attendance, it was a moving story about a lost boy, and the need for us to understand the needs and wants of our students.

Through the film, staff experienced a shared transformation, regardless of the natural bias from which they started, and left the session with a deeper understanding of the Residential School system, marginalized communities, and the daily ancestral lands and territories announcement.  Some may have even found their own secret path.

Exploring “Secret Path” as a staff was the start of a discussion, rather than the answer, and will surely lead to a deepened sense of our responsibilities as educators.


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