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Award-winning author meets with Alternative School Students

Award-winning author meets with Alternative School Students

Monday, November 10, 2014
Categories: Happenings @ TDSB, School Web Stories

Leading up to Aboriginal Education Month, students from the alt9 group of secondary alternative schools hosted award-winning author Joseph Boyden at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Jackman Hall.

Boyden is an Irish, Scots and Métis writer whose novels, short stories and works of non-fiction focus on Indigenous Canadians. The author of novels Through Black Spruce, which won the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize, and more recently, 2014 Canada Reads winner The Orenda, met with Native Studies students on October 28 to discuss First Nations and Métis cultures and share how alternative schools helped to turn his own life around.
By offering the Grade 9 “Expressing Aboriginal Cultures” course (NAC 1O), seven of the nine schools in the alt9 family have placed themselves at the vanguard of the TDSB’s push to decolonize education. This event was one of many alt9 schools have organized to support students in NAC 1O.
Four members of the Eagle Woman Singerz hand-drummed and sang students into Jackman Hall at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The Singerz’ performance was enriched by personal stories about the importance of their instruments and their music as Indigenous women.
The first thing Boyden did when he took the stage was teach the students a male and female moose call. He had one half of the room calling out to the other. Throughout the hour he spoke, Boyden talked about the importance of alternative schools in his personal growth and his development as a writer, summarized his three novels, and read an excerpt from the novel he is currently working on—a story about a gang-involved Native boy who keeps meeting the spirit of a residential school survivor travelling home to his family. Students responded enthusiastically to Boyden’s honest, personal storytelling.
After he spoke to the packed event, the alt9 schools gave him gifts that included copies of The West Enders, a literary journal produced by students from one school, and T-shirts screen-printed by another. Boyden then came down from the stage to graciously field more questions and listen to work students had written. He has since written to one of the students to give her feedback on her work.
Boyden’s speaking engagements support Camp Onakawana, which was built by Boyden and his friends to combat suicide on northern reserves by connecting youth to Moose Cree First Nation’s culture and the rhythms of the environment this culture has been in conversation with for millennia.

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