By Chadd Cawson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Truth and Reconciliation is more than one day acknowledged in September. It is continual learning and acting. Following the tragic news that swept the nation in May, 2021, when 215 bodies of children were uncovered on the site of the Kamloops Residential School, Jenna Jasek, School District 6 vice principal, Indigenous Learning and Equity, and Duncan Whittick, executive director, Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network (CBEEN) paired up to take action in Invermere. They began by providing ‘Every Child Matters’ flags to individuals and organizations in the community.
“We wanted to do our part in Truth and Reconciliation and felt the urgency, as the 215 children from Kamloops Residential School had just been found the previous month,” said Jasek. “As we delivered flags to different organizations, we felt the need to expand our message of Truth and Reconciliation. Duncan came up with the challenge, and we worked together and brainstormed how to do this, what it would look like and why it was necessary.”
Jasek and Whittick co-founded the ‘Every Child Matters Year-long Challenge’ in October 2021, the day after Canada’s first official Truth and Reconciliation Day. From that pilot project stemmed another – the ‘Every Child Matters: 4 Seasons of Reconciliation learning opportunity which is open to educators across Turtle Island (North America). This pilot initiative is in partnership with Reconciliation Education, The First Nations University of Canada, Rocky Mountain School District and Outdoor Learning Partners.
“I piloted the 4 Seasons of Education course created in partnership with Reconciliation Education and the First Nations University last year. I thought it was a great introduction to Truth and Reconciliation. I shared the course with Duncan and my idea to incorporate it into our Every Child Matter Year-Long Challenge,”
said Jasek. “We worked with Reconciliation Education and local Elders and Knowledge Holders to provide monthly modules and webinars for the participants. At the end of the course, all participants who complete the course will receive a certificate from Reconciliation Education and the First Nations University. We received feedback through the Outdoor Learning Store from our partners in other parts of Canada and the United States that there are no courses or challenges like ours, and non-Indigenous people want to learn more about Indigenous Peoples, and Truth and Reconciliation. We thought we should open the course to all North America in the fall, but with Duncan’s ability to put ideas into action quickly, we have been able to offer the course starting this February.”
The course will run from February 15 to June 25; students will work through 10 Reconciliation Education learning modules, along with five virtual opportunities to gather and learn from Indigenous Leaders, Elders and/or Knowledge Holders, about one hour of education a month.
“I am looking forward to our monthly webinars,” said Jasek.
“Hearing Indigenous People’s voices and personal experiences is hugely impactful and validates the urgency of Truth and Reconciliation and putting the 94 Calls of Action, into action.”
For non-Indigenous people across Turtle Island, taking part in 4 Seasons Reconciliation is a positive step towards it. Registration to participate in all five months is $100 and $25 of each participant’s registration will go towards Indigenous Learning Resources reviewed and recommended by Indigenous advisors. All resources are developed, written, and created by Indigenous authors, artists, and organizations. Another $5 will go directly to supporting the work of the Orange Shirt Society, while the remainder will ensure Indigenous presenters, partners and facilitators are given gratitude and appropriately compensated. At the end of the course, participants will be issued a certificate of completion from the First Nations University of Canada.
When the Pioneer asked Jasek what she hopes those who take part will take away from this true learning opportunity she said, “The importance of compassion, empathy and learning about Indigenous Peoples and their journey.”
Chadd Cawson is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for THE COLUMBIA VALLEY PIONEER. The LJI is a federally funded program. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.