Tag Archives: Bert Fox Community High School

Reflections on a Field Trip – Part 2

Almost two weeks have passed since our field trip to Fort Qu’Appelle. Finally, I have a chance to write about the second half of our day. I will close my eyes and drift back…

Excitement. It is tangible and all around us, in our voices as we discuss Sheena’s work at Bert Fox, under our feet as we amble the streets of Fort Qu’Appelle, and in our eyes, as we seek the treaty monuments we have come to see.

Mike tells us about the two treaty monuments, hinting that they are very different. We stumble across the first one, put in place by First Nations Chiefs in 1987. It is a beautiful sculpture of a First Nations man holding a golden eagle with his gaze turned up to the sky. The plaque tells us that he is praying to the Great Spirit for allowing him to take the golden eagle for ceremonial purposes, which demonstrates reverence for the environment. Another plaque explains how the First Nations peoples agreed to share this land with newcomers peacefully, in an exchange of solemn promises. This monument was set up to reaffirm the chiefs’ commitment to the spirit and intent of Treaty Four. It also commemorates a burial ground, where Cree, Saulteaux, and Assiniboine peoples are known to be buried.

             

“Beautiful,” I breathe quietly.

“And hopeful, isn’t it?” asks Mike. 

Hopeful, indeed. Although some Treaty promises were not being fulfilled, the Chiefs still showed their commitment to the Treaty, hoping that the oral understanding they had come to would be honoured.

We are quieter as we walk back to Mike’s vehicle, reflecting. We squish in and drive around, looking for the other treaty monument. We talk about how there are no signs for these important historical monuments. I think aloud how crazy it is that I grew up only 15 minutes away Fort Qu’Appelle, and yet I had no idea that these monuments existed until a few days ago. Sometimes we are blind to – or maybe choose not to see – what is right in front of us.

We find the treaty monument and notice it does have a sign – a tiny brown “Point of Interest #3” sign. We joke about whether we have seen points of interest one and two, and then walk briskly into the open green space, bordered by trees with a tall, white monument standing proudly in the middle. Our pace quickens because we are all excited to critique the monument and compare/contrast it with the monument put in place by the First Nations Chiefs.


  A hush falls over us as we move around the monument to read the plaques.

                                     

“Ceded all their rights, titles, and privileges to all lands?” asks Meagan incredulously.

“Wow…”

“That is so crazy.” We are all murmuring our disbelief at this misrepresentation of Treaty.

Mike nods at our reactions. He knew this was coming.

“I was expecting the language to be problematic, but I wasn’t expecting it to be historically inaccurate,” I say, shaking my head.

I think about the stark contrast between the explanations of Treaty on the two monuments. Solemn promises, sharing the land, peace, the spirit and intent of Treaty. Ceded all their rights, titles, and privileges to all lands forever.

As we walk away, Christine mentions how appropriate it is that the monument is white. We laugh. She is right; it was put in place by white people and for white people. This understanding of Treaty is the one that has benefitted the Europeans and disadvantaged the First Nations peoples for years and years.

We decide to take a drive over to Lebret before we head back to Regina. I express my frustration that Lebret is even closer to where I grew up – I even went church in Lebret when I was a little girl – and I had only found out about two weeks before that there had been a residential school there. How was I so blind to the history that was right in my backyard?

As we drive toward Lebret, someone points out some brick pillars on the side of the road and asks what they are. I have never noticed them before and no one knows for sure what they are. We decide to go see the beautiful Sacred Heart church first and then go back and check it out. The church is breathtaking. Mike stops the vehicle so Meagan can stand up and take pictures through the sunroof.

We turn around and go back to the brick pillars we saw. Mike pulls over and we all pile out and cross the road, eager to explore.

“Could it be the residential school gate?” we wonder. We don’t know for sure but we can’t think of anything else it could be. We walk a little further down, behind the gate. It is exquisite. The sun shines down on us and shimmers across the lake. We take it all in.

We take a group picture, capturing the beginning of STARS: Student Teachers Anti-Racist/Anti-Oppressive Society. I am grateful to be a part of this group. Together, we are exploring the past and seeing connections to our society and our lives today. Together, we are learning and making decisions about what actions we can take as people and as teachers because of that learning.

STARS

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Reflections on a Field Trip

On Wednesday, I had the amazing opportunity to go on a field trip out to Fort Qu’Appelle with four of my classmates and Mike Cappello.  We decided to go on this field trip because Mike had to pick up some magazines from Sheena Koops, a teacher from Bert Fox Community High School, and he thought meeting her would be a valuable experience for us.  Was he ever right!!

We met with Sheena for lunch and I think we were all captivated by her passion for treaty education and also her real, down-to-earth nature.  I learned a lot just from this lunch meeting, but I’ll try to summarize!

  • There will be resistance to treaty education.  Sheena integrates treaty education and First Nations content into her English classes and she gets phone calls and emails from upset and/or angry parents every year.  She described it as “slaps on the hand,” or being disciplined for teaching this content.  Now ask yourself:  Would she be getting the same reactions if she were integrating health education content into her English classes?  Highly unlikely.  That parents and students don’t think treaty education is important or worth learning about is evidence of structural racism.
  • Action research can be understood as a way of being rather than something we do.  It is this never ending cycle of action – reflection – research – more reflection – more action.  It means developing a questioning mindset and a desire to understand what works for you and what does not.  Seeing action research this way is a way of making your own professional development, because you are choosing to be engaged and are continuously and actively constructing your own learning.
  • One of Sheena’s goals for the next 10 years of her career is to help her students learn through discomfort rather than let them off the hook or consoling them when things get uncomfortable.  She struggles with this because she is so caring and compassionate, or as she said, “When I see tears, I have tears!”  This would be really difficult to do, so I think it’s a fantastic goal.  Mike also made the point that everyone can develop their own personal style of helping students learn through discomfort, which means you can stay true to yourself but still push students through that process.

We also got to explore the amazing magazines that Sheena’s students have created over the last few years – the ones Mike will be using as textbooks in his social studies class.  The work those students put into those magazines is just incredible!  It was so inspiring to see how knowledgeable the students were about treaty education and how powerfully they could write about it.

Sheena invited us into Bert Fox Community School, gave us a tour, and introduced us to her class.  She used us as a “teachable moment” and connected our presence to what they were learning about journalling by interviewing us as if she were a reporter.  It was really cool to see that she just ditched her lesson plan and embraced the opportunity (which she was still able to connect to student learning)!  I really want to be able to do that when I’m a teacher.

Click here to see us getting interviewed by Sheena in her classroom.

So this post covers the first half of our field trip!  I will be writing another one to cover the second half, which was equally as exciting.  I am so grateful that we got the chance to meet with a dedicated, spirited teacher who was willing to listen, discuss, and support us as new teachers who are interested in anti-oppressive education.  As a group and as a whole faculty, we are starting to normalize the conversation about social justice within the education profession.  I can’t wait to see what this will bring!