Integrating Indigenous perspectives and celebrating student achievement yields positive returns. This is the key message Dr. Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair imparted on staff and students during his visit to sites around the school district last week.
A University of Manitoba associate professor, Dr. Sinclair is a prolific writer and sought-after commentator on Indigenous issues. His dad, Senator Murray Sinclair, is a First Nations lawyer who previously served as chairman of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Ridgeway Elementary and Handsworth Secondary hosted Dr. Sinclair during the day on Oct. 3. Students and staff had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Dr. Sinclair, who afterwards engaged them in conversation.
That evening, Dr. Sinclair spoke to school district administrators on the value of Indigenous education for all learners, and how we can be better Canadians.
On Oct. 4, the eve of World Teachers' Day, the NVSD took another step forward toward reconciliation and enhancing Indigenous Education.
In the morning, staff gathered at school sites to engage in activities around integrating Indigenous worldviews and perspectives into learning environments.
Blueridge Elementary staff spent time exploring their connection to the land at Whey-ah-wichen/Cates Park.
Lynnmour staff had a powerful morning hearing personal stories from Stewart Gonzales, a residential school survivor, at the former site of St. Paul's Indian Residential School in North Vancouver.
Meanwhile, NVSD Indigenous Success Teacher Heather Myhre shared some of her teachings with Lynn Valley Elementary staff.
Dr. Sinclair capped off his visit with an inspiring speech to roughly 1,600 staff members gathered at Carson Graham Secondary in the afternoon on Oct. 4 – Curriculum Implementation Day.
Embracing Change: Exploring The Indigenous Worldview was the theme of the event. The Squamish Nation Canoe Family greeted guests with traditional song and dance, followed by the Windsor choir performing the Coast Salish and Canadian anthems.
During his keynote, Dr. Sinclair said integrating Indigenous perspectives into schools can be as easy as having conversations in the hallway – where students do most of their social learning.
You don't have to be an expert on Indigenous education to make a difference, Dr. Sinclair also explained.
As staff filtered out of the Carson gymnasium, they were gifted with a bundle of white sage – considered a sacred plant by Indigenous peoples.
Chris Atkinson offers a sage gift to district staff, following Dr. Sinclair's presentation
at Carson Graham.
A couple days after Dr. Sinclair's visit to North Vancouver, he was named peace educator of the year by a dual-nation network of educators, academics and peace activists on Oct. 6.
The Peace and Justice Studies Association, located at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., honoured Sinclair during an award luncheon in Winnipeg. Sinclair's daughter, Sarah Fontaine-Sinclair, was bestowed with the next generation peacemaker award at the same event.