Division News

Division News

Mistassiniy School mentors present research project about residential school experiences in Wabasca-Desmarais at World Indigenous Peoples Conference

Posted on July 25

Mistassiniy School Mentor Hailey Rathbone (right) with Elder Bernard Gladue

Mistassiniy School Mentor Hailey Rathbone (right) with Elder Bernard Gladue

Mistassiniy School, one of 24 schools in the Northland School Division (NSD), will be on the world stage this week attending the World Indigenous Peoples Conference (WIPCE) in Toronto. From July 24th – 28th, WIPCE draws Indigenous representatives from across the globe to share success and strategies for culturally and grounded Indigenous education. The key theme for this year’s conference is the role and impact of Indigenous education in truth and reconciliation. On Thursday, July 27th, Mistassiniy School mentors will be presenting a research project and a soon to be published book that speaks to truth and reconciliation.

The inspiration for this project came after attending WE Day in Calgary with hundreds of other NSD students October 26, 2016. After learning about changing communities from Me to We, the mentors came up with the idea to research about the residential school history in Wabasca-Desmarais. From January until the end of June, 2017, students interviewed Elders about their residential school experience at the Elders Lodge in Bigstone Cree Nation, at their homes and at the school. The mentors received first-hand accounts from Elders about life within the missions. The students asked questions such as what work they had to do there, and what, if any, good memories did they have in residential school.

“It was good, emotional, heart-felt, and rewarding all at once,” said Grade 12 Student Leeander Young.   “I’m really glad that they [Elders] wanted to go back, and share these stories. Many Elders want to forget about those memories, so I was happy that they shared their experiences.”

“It’s unbelievable how they [Elders] were treated but it’s what made them who they are today, and I am grateful; that they were willing to share with us.” said Grade 11 Student, Zach Zabot.

In addition to these powerful recollection of events, the mentors documented photographs of the missions in Wabasca-Desmarais. The stories and photos will be published in a book titled Kayas Ayamikamik Acimowina: Old Stories of the Mission.

“It was an awesome year for the mentors and this piece of work has made it rewarding for not only myself, and the Elders, but it will be for the entire community.” said Community Education Engagement Coordinator/Lead Mentor Darrell Anderson. “What an emotional display of resilience and experiences our Elders had in the residential schools.” 

To commemorate and honour the residential school survivors, mentors from Mistassiniy School, St. Theresa School and O.P.K. (Bigstone Community School) will be building a bench, swing bench and plaque. It will be located where the last mission once stood in Wabasca-Desmarais. The mentors want to thank:

  • Bigstone Community Wellness for assisting in getting the book published;
  • Lorraine Cardinal-Roy, Director of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Learner Success, Northland School Division for sponsoring the trip to WIPCE;
  • the late Clara Yellowknee for her book about Wabasca-Desmarais;
  • Jerry Jackson for the graphic design of the front and back cover of the book; and
  • the Elders for sharing their stories.

The book will be unveiled in late September.