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2016 Native Student Leadership Days
2016 Native Student Leadership Days
Posted on 02/17/2015

FNMI Learning Partner
Bill Montgomery

View a Video About Making Wampum Pins:
Wampum Pins

By Mark Calder

(Brockville)– It was a symbolic display of Intergenerational Trauma.

More importantly though, it showed students the pathway back to wellness and cultural pride.

About 100 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) students with the Upper Canada District School Board experienced the Stone Exercise Wednesday, February 10 during the second day of Native Student Leadership Days at Thousand Islands Secondary School.

The session was led by FNMI Learning Partner Bill Montgomery as a way to demonstrate how the stress of federal policies and the residential school system not only impacted natives initially caught in that system, but the generations that followed.

Standing at the front of the cafeteria with eight aboriginal students – each representing a generation – Montgomery told stories of individuals who had faced abuse in the residential system, which was designed to destroy their culture and assimilate them into mainstream society. The system took away children without their parents’ consent, saw parents thrown in jail for resisting, and children abused and descending into substance abuse, putting further cracks in the family tree and pushing parents’ problems on to their children.

The exercise symbolized how the first generation to suffer in the schools was burdened by the abuse, represented by a stone in a bag the students had to carry. As the impact of the abuse and injustice was passed on to the next generation, more stones were tossed in the bag, which got heavier and heavier as it was passed down the “family line.”

“It gives participants an idea of the hurt that has been passed on mostly through the experiences of the residential schools and certainly other situations that have occurred between First Nation and non-native people and how it has carried on from generation to generation,” said Montgomery.

“Each student represents a generation and the trauma they carried with them and how when they passed on, those traumas didn’t just disappear – they were passed on to their children and their families.”

But then Montgomery called up other students to represent FNMI achievements that have occurred through education and successful efforts to revive native culture.

“We are becoming strong as a people and are able to represent ourselves whether as authors writing down our histories and our stories to create awareness, lawyers representing our issues in the courts, or teachers having an ability to put First Nations’ perspectives in our teachings.”

With each positive step, Montgomery pulled stones out of the bag, ensuring that the burden was lighter, symbolizing how the First Nations peoples are turning the corner and slowly attaining wellness by recovering their culture.

“The most important thing is that we are learning our culture and our ceremonies and that in itself garners so much pride.”

Students at the conference said that learning about the residential school system had an impact.

“My grandmother went to a residential school and the stories really hit home,” said Rayjean Palluq, an Inuit student at Rockland District High School.

Other activities undertaken during the two-day session February 9 and 10 were: a smudge ceremony, a discussion on native constitutional rights, creation of a wampum lapel pin, a talk about the importance of the clan system, and native outdoor games.

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