Thinking Indigenous in Bancroft #NHHSIndigenous #trc

Smoke Trail Singers It's perhaps not surprising that 2016 is getting defined as a year people would rather forget. And sure there were some shocking losses and conflicts and turns of events but - when you think about it - every year has those! And those end-of-year lists have a way of relegating important events - both good and bad - to oblivion if they don't make the top 20. For me, one of the most interesting things about 2016 is that is was the year that the results of Canada's Truth & Reconciliation Commission were really put into the hands of the general public. While the findings were released in 2015, the initial focus was - quite rightly - on the reaction of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. But now it's everyone's responsibility to do something about it - for a genuine, wide-ranging and honest dialogue to take place among all Canadians with indigenous peoples. Obviously, Gord Downie's "Secret Path" project is a very high profile example of people taking up that challenge but the tools for engaging in the conversation need to be developed in young people across the country. Which is why I was so delighted to be asked to give a couple of presentations yesterday at the "Think Indigenous - Reconciliation in Education" special events day at North Hastings High School in Bancroft, Ontario. In so many ways, I believe the materials and stories of indigenous origin that weave through the Six String Nation story are a kind of model for how to have this conversation: ie., not as something separate from the lives of other Canadians but something foundational to all of us and without which we really can't be the nation we'd like to be.

I was set up in the gym at the end by the stage. At the other end, displays and info tables hosted by a variety of visiting indigenous and Métis groups. I didn't get out of the gym during my stay but throughout the school were other workshops and special classes being run throughout the day. Our end of the gym was shared with a couple of dance and drum groups who performed and offered participatory workshops with the students and teachers at a few points during the day - I even got into a couple of circle dances myself! I was especially pleased to meet Bruce Smoke and his extended family who were there as the Smoke Trail Singers (pictured), who provided information, insight and powerful entertainment in equal doses.

The "performance pockets" in each of my presentations were ably filled by students Evan Bull, Sam Rumleski and Jenny Moffitt as well as teachers Steve Bereza (who did an original song dedicated to healing and reconciliation) and Adam Palmer (who did Tragically Hip's "Fiddler's Green" - and also coordinated all of the music and tech!).

Thanks to all the staff, students and participants at North Hastings High School - especially those who worked with local First Nations volunteers to prepare the most spectacular lunch of local specialties. Special thanks to teacher Heather Taylor, who initiated my visit to Bancroft and Scott Shortly, First Nations Métis Inuit Student Success and Instructional Coach for the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board, with whom I had some great conversations over the course of the day. Special thanks also to Bruce Smoke and his family and our kickass emcee, Raven Murphy.

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