Tara attended a Reconciliation Dialogue Workshop in Victoria in January 2014. Inspired to take action at the end of this workshop, Tara committed to advancing Indigenous Art as a pillar of reconciliation in her Oak Bay community. She contacted resourceful artists, donors, politicians and educators. In a short time, together they have been able to appoint an arts laureate, place Indigenous art on the waterfront, and are now working to have a welcome pole to be part of their new high school. Tara is very hopeful about the future; she says “the connections and movement are now unstoppable!”
Indeed the connections are flourishing. The other action that Tara had committed to at the Reconciliation Dialogue Workshop was to work towards making sure that every school child learns about residential schools as a part of their core curriculum. Tara sent Peg Orcherton, the Chair of the Greater Victoria School Board, the excellent curriculum used in the Northwest Territories to teach high school students about the continuing impacts of residential schools. This initiative strengthened the school board’s active plans to further develop its Indigenous education content.
By April 2014, long-time advocate of this issue and school trustee, Edith Loring-Kuhanga’s motion on residential schools as a required high school course was approved by the B.C. School Trustees Association. However, this course will be taught in schools only if the B.C. Ministry of Education decides to implement this recommendation.
Tara believes it is crucial that Canadians learn early on about residential schools and other colonialist policies that have profoundly shaped Indigenous experiences. She says it’s a social justice issue: “we have had graduate students come to our Public Administration program that don’t know anything about residential schools. Some of these students are going to work in government and will be making decisions without fully understanding the issues”. We are more likely to address the unacceptable levels of poverty and violence and provide an environment where all people in our nation can flourish if we are making more informed decisions. Tara thinks that “we make better decisions when we really get the true story and we are all in the same page”. That is why the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Reconciliation Canada Dialogue Workshops and this curriculum are so important.
Each reconciliation action matters. When “you just keep working towards what you believe in, little things can become big things so quickly. If you ever feel that something is too little to be bothered with, just do it!”
Tara’s reconciliation actions are having positive impacts because they are interconnected with the actions of many others in her community: Chief Robert Joseph and everyone that was part of the Reconciliation Dialogue Workshop, the graduate student that brought the Northwest Territories residential school curriculum to Tara’s attention, the many people in the B.C. School Board that are working towards reconciliation, and, of course, all of you who are reading this article! If you want the residential school experience to be a required course so that our youth have a better understanding of our shared history: contact your MLA or your school trustee. This story is alive; be part of it by sharing it with others.
For more information on why it is important to teach students about residential schools: