Windsor's Journey as a Secret Path Legacy School
Grade 9 student volunteers created a powerful display of our journey as a Secret Path Legacy School for Windsor's front foyer. Windsor has been selected along with four Elementary schools from the North Vancouver School District to participate in the Secret Path Legacy Schools program, which is supported by the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund in their work towards Reconciliation. Secret Path is a graphic novel, album and film about Chanie Wenjack, who was an Anishinaabe boy, born in Ogoki Post on the Marten Falls Reserve on January 19th, 1954. In 1963, at the age of nine, Chanie was sent to the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario. In 1966, at 12-years old, Chanie ran away from Cecilia Jeffrey, attempting to reunite with his family who were 600 kilometers away in Ogoki Post, Ontario. Chanie succumbed to starvation and exposure approximately 56 kilometres from Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School. Chanie Wenjack's story is significant in that this narrative provides a powerful access point for students to engage in the conversations around the dark legacy of residential schools in Canada and the consequential impact on generations of Indigenous Peoples.
While listening to, watching and reading Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire's Secret Path, grade 9 students in Ms. Marna Thomas's English classes, have been writing, painting, and collaging their thoughts, feelings and questions. During the course of the unit, it has been a true honour and a privilege to learn from and collaborate with the guest speakers who have shared their stories, ideas, and talents with our students.
On October 1st, Windsor students, staff, and the families of the Orange Shirt Day student volunteers gathered in the large gym for an Orange Shirt Day assembly to acknowledge the difficult truths about Canada's residential schools and the intergenerational trauma of residential schools. For over a century, more than 150,000 thousand Indigenous children were taken from their homes and sent to residential schools where they were not allowed to speak their Indigenous languages or recognize their Indigenous heritage. The keynote speaker was Mr. Sam George, who is a Windsor parent, a member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the Squamish Nation, and an Indigenous Support Worker for the Langley School District. Sam shared authentic stories about residential schools and brought to light the fact that many of the Orange Shirt Day Assembly student volunteers are the first generation of Indigenous students who are not attending residential schools. Following Sam's impactful speech, Ms. Marissa Heaven's Senior Concert Band played "Eagle Song" by local Squamish composer, Bob Baker, while Windsor's entire student body and staff paused to recognize the generations of Indigenous people who survived residential schools and to remember the children who did not survive. We would like to express our gratitude to Mr. Sam George, Ms. Marissa Heaven and the Concert Band, Mr. Shawn Myers and the Roadie Club, Mr. Adam Kozak, Ms. Nancy Deminger, and to all of the Orange Shirt Day student volunteers who volunteered their time to help plan and set-up for the assembly, prepared materials and audio-visuals, and spoke at this important assembly.
English 9 students are encouraged to explore both visual and written forms of expression for their journals. Windsor's Art Teacher, Mr. Matt Burnett, visited English 9 classes to teach students about the art of watercolour painting, inspired by Jeff Lemire's watercolour illustrations in Secret Path. Windsor's Vice-principal, Ms. Sarah Best, and Windsor's Teacher Librarian, Ms. Lisa Ottenbreit, talked with students about the process of making visual journals and shared models of visual journals from their graduate work. Recently, Mr. Gordon Dick, who is a local artist, member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and works for the North Vancouver School District on the District's Indigenous Education Team, shared authentic stories of residential school to help explain to students why Chanie would have wanted to flee to be with his family. Gordon also discussed Raven symbolism in Secret Path and showed students how to draw a Raven using Coast Salish art forms. Gordon drew parallels between the significance of how the Raven symbolizes both death and rebirth with how Gord Downie's Secret Path about Chanie Wenjack's tragic death is spreading awareness about the painful truths of residential schools. We are grateful for the time Gordon was able to spend with us at Windsor.
We would also like to express our gratitude to the grade 9 students who have contributed their time and journal entries for the creation of this display and class collage to serve as public monuments of our school's Secret Path journey to support the Reconciliation process through awareness, education, and action.