As of July 1, 2018, Dr. Michelle Coupal will be joining the Faculty of Education, University of Regina as an Associate Professor in the area of Truth and Reconciliation Education.
Dr. Coupal has been working an assistant professor in Indigenous Rhetorics and Literatures in Canada at Laurentian University, and is herself an Indigenous scholar and member of the Bonnechere Algonquin First Nation. Her research and teaching interests include Indigenous pedagogies and profiles, pedagogies of reconciliation, teaching trauma and Indian Residential School literature, trauma and testimony, and Indigenous literatures of Turtle Island.
She brings a deep understanding of and commitment to truth and reconciliation education. Indeed, her record of research, scholarship, teaching and service while at Laurentian advances the TRC Calls to Action as she seeks to make connections between the stories writers tell in Residential school literature and the lives of their student readers. She fosters these connections through her teaching so that her students may become equipped with the tools and vocabulary to understand Indigenous peoples, literature and histories ethically, and to further consider how we are all shaped by the legacies of colonialism in Canada.
Dr. Coupal is currently the principal investigator on a SSHRC funded Insight Development Grant ($55,691) for her project Teaching Trauma and Indian Residential School Literatures in Canada. She has co-edited an anthology of work titled Honouring the Strength of Indian Women: Plays, Stories, and Poems by Vera Manuel and is currently working on a book to be published with Wilfred Laurier UP for the project Teaching Trauma and Indian Residential School Literatures in Canada. She has also published in peer reviewed journals, has published chapters in edited collections, and has disseminated her work broadly at local, national and international conferences. Further, she has served Laurentian University as a member of the organizing committee and Program Chair for MAAMWIZING: Indigeneity in the Academy; L’université à l’heure de la reconciliation held in November, 2016; as the designate for the Associate Vice-President Indigenous Program’s for the Council of English Language Programs, and as a member of several other University, Faculty and Department Committees.
On March 26, Education students from Audrey Aamodt’s Treaties in the Classroom (ECCU 400) section overcame their own discomfort to engage in conversations with peers and profs in the hallways at the University of Regina about the many ways of taking action towards reconciliation. Aamodt says, “Students decided to host these conversations in the halls of the University to remind themselves/us that they not only belong, and have a responsibility, to the more intimate Faculty of Education, but are also part of this larger learning community and beyond.”
Bert Fox High School students and their teacher Sheena Koops, as regular facilitators of the Blanket Exercise, travelled from Fort Qu’Appelle to join the conversations, to raise awareness about the Blanket Exercise, which is an activity in which “participants take on the roles of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Standing on blankets that represent the land, they walk through pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance ” (Source).
SUNTEP students and their instructors Brenna Pacholko and Russell Fayant visited the stations, and offered, in instructor Aamodt’s words, “critical and courageous conversations with students and myself.” Aamodt adds, “We extend gratitude for their generosity, wisdom, and patience with us.”
Regarding what the students learned, Aamodt says, “I think the most important overall learning that could potentially come out of this experience for us was that listening to and reflecting on critiques takes practice and is necessary. Treaty Education, along with potentially associated reconciliation, decolonization, indigenization, and social justice efforts should always be submitted to critical reflection and none are without tension. So, we ask who benefited from this event and if it was truly ‘action.’ Perhaps it didn’t amount to anything of significance, except to make us feel good. Then, we reminded one another about Pam Palmater’s claim that “if it feels good, it’s not reconciliation.”
As for her own learning, Aamodt adds, ” I have learned how I might better invite students to consider who might be the right people to talk about particular issues, some of the problems with being perceived as positioning ourselves (settler-Canadians) as experts about MMIW, residential school legacies & intergenerational trauma, FNMI identities-histories-cultures-communities, FNMI languages, reconciliation, decolonization, indigenization, and even treaties.”
Below are student comments about what they were doing, and what they thought about its importance.
There were three sections of ECCU 400 this semester and all three hosted events: Evelyn Poitras’ class held a Talking Circle on April 5, and that night, Vivian Gauvin’s class held a “Treaty Walk in the Village” off-campus. Also, Ed student Brandy Burns has posted a blog reflection about the Treaty Walk in the Village posted at https://brandyjburns.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/respectful-relationships/
Naomi Fortier-Fréçon and Leia Laing are still relatively early in their teaching careers but they have already left an important legacy.
This past November, Fortier-Fréçon and Laing, both graduates of the U of R, received the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching. Governor-General Julie Payette, presented the award at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
They were recognized for co-founding the Treaty4Project in 2014 while they were teachers at Regina’s Campbell Collegiate High School.
Fortier-Freçon, while still teaching, is a U of R student once again, working on her PhD.
“When we accepted this honour we were very happy to see that our project was recognized at a national level,” says Fortier-Fréçon. “A lot of work and effort was put into this project and it was very exciting to see how this education project has evolved since it began in 2014.”
The idea for the project came when Laing and Fortier-Fréçon concluded that students were not receiving the treaty education required.
So they started working on a program.
“First, the inspiration was to find a way to ‘think outside the box’ and find a creative way to teach about treaty education,” says Laing. “We were troubled by the reality that our students seemed to know very little about treaty education and when they knew something we noticed that they weren’t necessarily applying their knowledge in their lives. Therefore, they seemed to know the “right answer” on paper, but unfortunately that reality was not reflected in their actions or relationship with their friends and the community around them.”
The teachers started developing their idea. They searched for input. They approached Calvin Racette who was the Indigenous Education Coordinator with Regina Public Schools.
Racette supported the project from the beginning and suggested the teachers include Noel Starblankett, Knowledge Keeper at the University of Regina and Sandra Bellegarde, Indigenous Education Consultant with Regina Public Schools.
“Noel Starblanket was essential in the creation of this educational project,” says Fortier-Fréçon. “His presence allowed us to learn in a personal way about the importance of treaties. He also guided us regarding the respect of Indigenous protocols and offered support to our students.”
More people came onboard and the project “quickly snowballed into a group of inspired, passionate members who became the founding committee. Together we started to imagine the Treaty4Project,”says Fortier-Fréçon.
The principal aim of the project is for student to understand their generation’s relationship with Treaty 4 in Saskatchewan. The project provides students with an opportunity to engage with community members including elders, Indigenous artists, university professors, activists, and education students.
Laing had the idea to use art to help the students reflect about the meaning of treaties in a creative context. The result was a major mural project with Cri-Métis artist Ray Keighley at Regina’s Scott Collegiate in 2015.
A second mural created in 2017 and created with Cri-Ojibway artist Lloyd Dubois is on display at the library at École Elsie Mironuck Community School in Regina.
The Treaty4Project founding committee worked on organizing a youth conference to deepen the knowledge previously taught in the classroom and allow members of the community to share their stories with the students. Elders were regularly brought into classes.
More than 200 students from four high schools took part in the first conference in 2015. Two more conferences followed and now a fourth one is scheduled for 2018.
“The Treaty4Project has allowed us to have the opportunity to work in collaboration and build relationships among students, teachers and institutions and this is what we believe to be the true meaning of reconciliation,” says Fortier-Fréçon.
Says Laing: “Using personal stories from guest speakers, our students are invited to unlearn the official narrative and open their heart to other realities that they might not be aware of. Understanding these stories helped our students access a more inclusive history narrative and acknowledge that they have the privilege of living here because in the past a treaty was signed.”
Leia Laing is now teaching Grade 6 at École Monseigneur de Laval. She earned her Bachelor of Education at the U of R in 2008.
Naomi Fortier-Fréçon teaches French Immersion at École Elsie Mironuck Community School in Regina. She earned her Bachelor of Education at the U of R in 2007 and her Master of History at Université de Sherbooke in 2010. She is currently a PhD student in the Faculty of Education working under the supervision of Dr. Fadila Boutouchent.
Laing and Fortier-Fréçon say this project was made possible thanks to the support from:
Saskatchewan Arts Board
First Nations University of Canada
Faculty of Education (U of R)
The McDowell Foundation
Regina public schools
Founding Committee Members:
Dr. Angelina Weenie
Dr. Kathleen O’Reilly from First Nations University of Canada
Artists Ray Keighley and Lloyd Dubois.
The teaching team since 2015 are all U of R Education alumni:
Heather Findlay – Martin Collegiate
Tamara Ryba – Scott Collegiate
Tana Mitchell – Balfour Collegiate
Tiffany Agopsowicz – Martin Collegiate
Janine Taylor and Jessica Moser – Sheldon Williams
Elizabeth Therrien – Campbell Collegiate
Tracey Ellis – FW Johnson High School.
Other Presenters and Supporters:
Dr. Shauneen Pete (former Indigenous Lead/U of R)
Dr. Anna-Leah King (Faculty of Education)
Dr. Jennifer Tupper (Former Dean of the Faculty of Education)
Dr. James Daschuk, (U of R)
Rap singer Brad Bellegarde (aka InfoRed)
Cadmus Delorme (Chief of the Cowessess First Nation)
Dr. Mike Cappello (Education Faculty) and many more presenters from 2015 to the present day.
University of Regina feature story by Costa Maragos
Sylvia Smith, Founder of Project of Heart, received the President’s Distinguished Graduate Student Award at the fall 2017 convocation. This award recognizes outstanding academic performance and is granted to a student whose graduating thesis, exhibition, or performance and the corresponding defense was deemed meritorious by the examining committee.
In an earlier issue of Education News, Sylvia discussed the obstacles she had faced that had delayed the completion of her Master’s degree. She had started her degree in 2011 and was interested in finding out about teachers’ perceptions of Project of Heart, an inquiry-based learning project that examines the history and legacy of Indian residential schools in Canada and commemorates the lives of former students who died while attending Indian residential schools. The project had grown out of students’ demands for more information on this neglected aspect of Canadian history. Sylvia had finished interviewing her participants when, she says, “we had an illness in the family and I became very over-stressed. My work suffered.” Sylvia had to put her thesis work on hold, and by the time she came back to it, Sylvia said, “the landscape had changed so much. When I’d started, materials on Indian residential schools were almost nil…And Project of Heart had grown exponentially!” Her initial vision which was to be a “snapshot in time” had become much more, and she had to face the challenge of figuring out how it would all come together.
Not only did she work through these challenges, Sylvia was the recipient of this prestigious award.
Sylvia says it feels great to be finished. “I can’t believe it’s actually finished. I’ve never really thought of myself as an academic and certainly, with ‘life’ intruding the way it tends to, I never thought I would finish the darned thing. I’m just so lucky to have had a wonderfully supportive spouse and thesis committee (Dr. Carol Schick actually came out of retirement to help out) because they certainly didn’t have to do what they did.”
What excites her about her thesis, Sylvia says, “is that my findings have already been referenced to support work being done around reconciliation and the necessity of teaching *for* justice and more practically, *doing* it.”
Sylvia’s master’s thesis is called: Teachers’ Perceptions of Project of Heart, An Indian Residential School Education Project
The purpose of this study was to gain insight into how settler teachers took up an arts and activist-based Indian Residential School Commemoration Project called Project of Heart. More specifically, it sought to assess whether or not the research participants were led to transformation, demonstrated through disrupting “common sense” (racist) behaviours of teachers and students as well as through their engagement in social justice work that Project of Heart espouses.
Since 2007, Ontario school boards have been required by Ministry policy to teach the “Aboriginal Perspective” in their high school courses, yet at the time of the study (2010), there were still very few resources available for educators to do so. There were even fewer resources available to teach about the Indian Residential School era. Project of Heart was created by an Ontario teacher and her students in 2007 in order to address this egregious situation.
The study was guided by grounded theory methods and the findings suggest that while Project of Heart did not achieve “transformation” in its participants as assessed through teachers’ lack of completion of the social justice requirement, teachers indicated that both students and teachers benefited greatly because of the relevance of the learning.
Defended: April 2017
Supervisor: Dr. Marc Spooner
Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and professor for the School of Social Work at McGill University
Thesis committee members:
Dr. Ken Montgomery, University of Windsor, Dean, Faculty of Education and Dr. Carol Schick, former Canada Research Chair in Social Justice and Aboriginal Education
Read more about Sylvia and the Project of Heart here: http://www2.uregina.ca/education/news/disrupted-studies-a-teacher-researcher-success-story/
Orange Shirt Day is Saturday, September 30, but the faculty, staff and students have dressed in orange shirts today to commemorate those children who attended Indian residential schools, and to show our support and commitment to reconciliation and hope for the future generations of children.
Before third-year pre-interns go into schools for their 3-week field experiences, they participate in extensive professional development. Treaty education is a significant part of their learning experience.
This fall (September 13), three bus loads of pre-interns went to the Treaty 4 Gathering at Fort Qu’Appelle, and while there, experienced the Kairos Blanket Exercise along with Treaty 4 cultural activities.
Ten facilitators from the Office of Treaty Commissioners, 10 elders, and 10 faculty and staff worked with 270 pre-interns on September 23 and 24 at the University of Regina. Students were given opportunities to interact with Elders and received instruction on treaties and treaty education.
Place cursor over the photo above to scroll through photo gallery. (Photos courtesy of Instructor Julie Machnaik)
— Anessa Eckert (@AnessaEckert) September 25, 2017
— Cort Dogniez (@CDogniez) September 23, 2017
— Julie Machnaik ᔫᓕ (@jmachnaik) September 24, 2017
— Julie Machnaik ᔫᓕ (@jmachnaik) September 24, 2017
— Laneise Scharback (@laneise2016) September 24, 2017
Had a wonderful time at Day 1 of the Treaty Ed Conference, learning about Treaty 4 and other Saskatchewan Treaties. Thank you, @URFacofEd!
— zunaira (@zunaira_t) September 23, 2017
— Julie Machnaik ᔫᓕ (@jmachnaik) September 13, 2017
— Julie Machnaik ᔫᓕ (@jmachnaik) September 24, 2017
— Julie Machnaik ᔫᓕ (@jmachnaik) September 24, 2017
The Shattering the Silence: The Hidden History of Indian Residential Schools in Saskatchewan ebook is a Project of Heart Saskatchewan resource for teachers published by the Faculty of Education, University of Regina.
This book extracts, reorganizes, and compiles the school-specific Saskatchewan elements of the NCTR reports and archived school files as well as incorporating other research and former student accounts that have been recorded and published online. It is an informative and accessible resource for teaching and learning about Indian residential schools in Saskatchewan.
Follow the link to DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY of Shattering the Silence: The Hidden History of Indian Residential Schools in Saskatchewan
In spring 2017, The Faculty of Education’s Indigenous Family Therapies Class (EPSY 870AB) in partnership with the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre (IPHRC) have planted a Project of Heart Reconciliation Garden.
The Objectives of this project in our class were:
• To present a culturally-competent counseling intervention by integrating Indigenous knowledge within the more modern ecopsychology approach;
• To encourage a three-way therapeutic alliance between counselor, client, and nature as co-therapist;
• To deconstruct the modern therapeutic “space” by promoting nature-based therapeutic interventions; and
• To identify gardening as a social justice approach.
We based our garden design around the Honouring Memories Planting Dreams
Celebrated in May and June, Honouring Memories, Planting Dreams invites individuals and organizations to join in reconciliation by planting heart gardens in their communities. Heart gardens honour residential school survivors and their families, as well as the legacy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Each heart represents the memory of a child lost to the residential school system, and the act of planting represents that individual’s commitment to finding their place in reconciliation. In 2016, more than 6500 hearts were planted in gardens across Canada.
For more information about the Reconciliation garden, please contact:
JoLee Sasakamoose – JoLee.Sasakamoose@uregina.ca
John Klein – John.Klein@uregina.ca