During the last week of September, we gathered together as the MTMS community to learn from one another and climb the Truth and Reconciliation mountain together. Students, staff, family, sponsors, donors and supporters learned from elders and Indigenous artists. Tears were shed and many hugs were had as our MTMS family returned to the building. It has been many years since we have welcomed guests to the school and we hope you will have the opportunity to join us next year in September or for another event.
A reflection from Elder Harry Francis:
Every day is a birthday that we celebrate. Every day we are born. I was taught to walk in ceremony and also in the sacrements by Pere Murray. The sacraments were given to the Metis to pray and ceremony was given to the old people to pray. There is one God. We must love one another and care for one another. We must pray to the creator for virtue and with thanks for starting the day.
We give thanks for the buffalo and what it gives us. We no longer use the hide for food, clothes or shelter, but we still use the teachings. Buffalo are strong. We need that strength when we get up in the morning. Buffalo are agile. They side-step gopher holes as they run. We need that that agility when we face temptation. When we tan and scrape the buffalo hide, we learn to focus our mind. We can use that focus when we are at school. We learn to work as a group.
Buffalo Hide Scraping
Lorne Kequahtooway and Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway of Buffalo People Arts Institute connected us to the buffalo. While we scraped the hide, made a scraping tool from a buffalo bone and removed the hair from the buffallo hide, we reflected on the social and historical realities of the buffalo and the people who rely on its survival. Their son, Wade, shared that scraping can be very medidative especially when done to the beat of the drum. The hide was stretched on a wooden frame of about 10 feet by 10 feet. As we removed the fleshy part, the hide began to dry out and turn black. Over the course of the week, we continued to scrape and the black gave way to the soft leather that we would expect to see. The hide was cut into 3 circles and each class from grade 6-8 will design a sheild representing their journey together that will be displayed at the school. It is moving to consider the many hands that worked together to make this possible.
Local Indigenous Designer/Artist Tracey George Hesse taught us the artistic and cultural history of beading. We created necklaces and beaded pins (orange t-shirts and red dresses). Tracey explained that beading is a common way for people to re-centre and refocus. We were reminded to practice mindfulness because beading demands utmost concentration and a willingness to seek peace. We were also reminded to be patient with ourselves and embrace the imperfections.
Symbolized as the circle of life and the heart-beat of Mother Earth, the drum provides many teachings from the land. Through the teachings of the First Nation Drum, Mr. Whitestar taught us about love, humility, respect, courage, wisdom, and truth. It was incredible to see students run from all corners of the school yard to gather around the drum when the beat began. Nearly all were gathered, either singing or drumming, sharing their hearts through music.
And there was so much more...
There were various workshops and teachings including sharing circles, land-based learning, sweetgrass teachings, bannock making, and the Reading Program featured books from Indigenous authors and role models. For Orange Shirt Day, the grade 6 students took a walk with our friends at Eden Care. There was a lot of horn honking as we walked up Broad Street with our orange signs. The walk ended with a round dance and some drumming and singing.
We wish to extend special thanks to Elder Harry Francis, Doreen Topp, Bradshaw Lavallee, and Harvard Western Insurance for their thoughtful collaboration throughout the week. Thank you to everyone who took time to participate with us whether in person or in spirit. We are honoured to journey with you, our MTMS family. The journey to Truth and Reconciliation is just that...a journey up a mountain that we will walk daily. Thank you for walking by our side.
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