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VCI students form a living medicine wheel in honour of Truth and Reconciliation

The Sept. 28 assembly was led by Samantha Douglas with Vanier's Treaty 4 Group

Students at Vanier Collegiate Institute (VCI) attended a Truth and Reconciliation assembly in the spirit of respect and personal responsibility, as part of an ongoing effort to teach younger generations the story of Canada’s residential schools.

The assembly took place Sept. 28, and all students and faculty were invited to attend.

The presentation was put on by the school's Treaty 4 Group, led by Samantha Douglas.

“Our Treaty 4 Group is aiming to promote reconciliation in our school and in our community, so they try to put on events so students can participate in cultural activities, and hold liturgies like this, where we’re sharing different faith denominations,” Douglas said.

Douglas has Cree ancestry and was also a former student at VCI. She said she feels blessed for the opportunity to revitalize her culture through education and through her involvement with the Treaty 4 Group.

“Truth and Reconciliation is just so important in our society, and everyone has a role in it. Doing these little pieces in our school is just one simple action that we can do to promote reconciliation, but like we said in the liturgy, reconciliation is an act of love,” she said.

To give the presentation a deeper symbolic significance, students from each grade wore matching colours to form the four quadrants of the traditional Indigenous medicine wheel.

“We had the students dress in the colours of the medicine wheel because we choose to do this prayer through the directions,” explained Samantha Douglas, the teacher’s advisor for the school’s Treaty 4 Group.

The Grade 9s wore red and represented the south; Grade 10s wore black and represented the west; Grade 11s wore white and represented the north; and Grade 12s wore yellow in representation of the east.

“First Nation’s culture is so prevalent with the circle and with cyclic knowledge. The medicine wheel can actually represent so many teachings with just one simple concept, so we were able to apply it to our prayers, to our actions, and also to the stages of life that we are in,” she said.

Throughout the week, teachers at VCI are holding smaller activities in their classrooms to help students understand the history and the story of Indigenous peoples. Residential school posters are set up along the hallways and offer students further learning opportunities as well.

“I just want to say ‘hay hay’ which is thank you to all our staff and students for their patience, their responsibility, and their respect today. It was amazing, and they’re always awesome,” Douglas said.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known colloquially as Orange Shirt Day takes place on Saturday, Sept. 30. Students across Moose Jaw are invited to show their support by wearing orange to class and throughout the day on Friday, Sept. 29.

“When we wear orange, we’re showing that we support reconciliation and it’s the smallest act that we can do to show our support,” Douglas concluded.

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