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County schools pay tribute to Treaties Recognition Week

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

Tove Wilson, left, of the Simcoe County District School Board, takes part in a sharing circle with Portage View Public School students, from left, Reanna, Ava, Miriah, Jimmy and Hudson while seated on the school's medicine wheel carpet. It was part of Treaties Recognition Week activities.

IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/POSTMEDIA

Tove Wilson, left, of the Simcoe County District School Board, takes part in a sharing circle with Portage View Public School students, from left, Reanna, Ava, Miriah, Jimmy and Hudson while seated on the school's medicine wheel carpet. It was part of Treaties Recognition Week activities. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/POSTMEDIA

Honouring Indigenous culture will be part of daily morning announcements at Simcoe County District School Board schools.

Timed with Treaties Recognition Week, the new traditional territory acknowledgement will eventually also be heard at school board meetings and special events.

Before beginning their studies, students will now hear that board facilities are situated on the traditional land of the Anishnaabeg people.

“We acknowledge the enduring presence of First Nation, Métis and Inuit people on this land and are committed to moving forward in the spirit of reconciliation and respect,” the announcement will state.

The Anishnaabeg include the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Pottawatomi nations, collectively known as the Three Fires Confederacy.

Tove Wilson, an Indigenous education teacher, was speaking to Portage View Public School Grade 4 students in Barrie on Tuesday who were just starting their learning journey about the treaties.

“I think it’s about a greater awareness of the promise when treaties were garnered originally and that all nations need to work together and respect each other and share the land,” she said of the morning announcement for students.

While Wilson engages her students in the Portage View portable classroom, a colourful sign on the wall behind her - We Are All Treaty People – is front and centre.

“It’s important because it’s not just about Indigenous people. It’s about all people,” she said after having a sharing circle on the classroom’s medicine wheel carpet.

“It took two different groups of people to make the treaties so it takes those two groups of people to honour them now.

“We need to respect both nations.”

All of us, whether we are Indigenous or non-Indigenous, are treaty people, and we have a responsibility to reinforce that understanding within school communities, said Alison Bradshaw, the board’s principal of Indigenous education.

“We can all benefit from learning about the histories, cultures, contributions and perspectives of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in Canada,” she said. 

Stuart Finlayson, a board superintendent, said while there is no provincial mandate to incorporate the acknowledgement in the morning announcements at schools, it has a role to play.

“It is an important act of reconciliation founded in the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” he said. “It is our hope that students will take their learning and discussions from their schools and classrooms and share that with their parents.”

Letters will be going home to parents system-wide outlining the addition of a daily land acknowledgement in schools, he added.

imcinroy@postmedia.com