Every Child Deserves to Feel Loved. Teaching young children about residential schools.

By Colleen Devlin, teacher Aboriginal K / 1 Program at Ecole Puntledge Park, Courtenay, B.C.

Colleen Devlin is the Indigenous teacher for K/1 programming at École Puntledge Park, a Legacy School in Courtenay, B.C. She has been doing amazing work with younger children in teaching them about residential schools from an early age, creating a safe space for these important conversations.  

After DWF’s first virtual sharing circle, Colleen was kind enough to share her article with us so we could share it with other early primary teachers. It was originally shared within her school district along with a mini workshop to give primary teachers enough knowledge and courage to teach this important topic to their students. Colleen is happy to share her article further as she said, “the more educators feel comfortable teaching this topic, the more our kids learn.”  

Walking for Wenjack at Ecole Puntledge Park with young students provides opportunities to talk and ask questions.

Canada’s true history with residential schools is a topic mandated in the B.C. curriculum for every grade including kindergarten. Given the difficult subject matter, it is important for educators to take time for self-care after teaching lessons on the topic, whether it is going for a walk on the beach or talking with a friend or family member over a coffee break. When starting to teach about the subject, it is important to start by doing some background work – know which of your students  are in foster care or who may be having a difficult time, so you know who might need extra attention and care. Remember this is not ancient history – the last residential school closed in 1997. This article is a good resource that has some great early primary books, art projects, and ways to weave in kindness and generosity to structured lessons. 

We are constructing the building blocks of knowledge for further study in the upper grades. The history of residential schools is difficult to discuss for anyone, however it is especially challenging when talking to youth. Pictured here are the mainstay books I would use when talking with children.  

Amik Loves School is a gentle story. As you read it you could say, “Imagine if the Elder you know (the Ni’noxsola assigned to your school) couldn’t share her culture language or special songs with us because she wasn’t allowed to do so when she was at school. For some people this happened in schools like the one in this book.” Unless the class has more questions, I would leave them with that thought.  

With Shi Shi Etko, many pages lead to further discussion about the land and rich culture which allows you to invite children to think of what they would gather from their favourite places, and what memories they enjoy with their grand parents or important people in their lives. As Starleigh Grass says, “We will never understand the richness of what was taken away for seven generations unless we deeply understand the value First Nations place on land stewardship and multi-generational learning.”  

A brand-new book called The Train, is a special reflection of those who attended residential schools, as a Survivor visits a place with important but sad memories of relatives and friends that never came back. It is gentle and full of love, despite the challenging subject matter and personal story.  

Throughout of all our lessons, conversations, and art projects, we reassure children that they are loved – loved by their families, their people at school, and in the community. 

As you can see, these are all small steps; for the most part, I like to let the children take the lead by asking questions. Be prepared for some questions that come later as the students process the lesson. Parents may also have questions; in which case they can be referred to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website. 

Doing an art project after these discussions gives you a chance to circulate and check in on each child. Painting rocks or making orange handprints, making a Heart Garden with each heart bearing a special message to Survivors written by each child could help the kids connect with the material. The other art idea (pictured here) was inspired by George Littlechild – he had the class brainstorm feelings about going to residential school and being away from family. The children then choose a photo to add to their painting – very powerful.

George Littlechild had the class brainstorm feelings about going to residential school then they choose a photo to add to their painting.

Interweaving themes of love and compassion will help the children feel like they can enact change – Monique Gray Smith has beautiful books that help teach about kindness and generosity. Young students know what social justice is – they may be moved to actions like baking cookies for a soup kitchen or making donations to a local Indigenous organization. It is through these actions that we all bring about change for our future. 

Remember to prioritize your own  self-care. Indigenous Education Departments can also suggest books and lessons for you to support your teaching.  

Check out the Legacy Schools resources for more ideas as well. 

Check our calendar of events for our next virtual sharing circle 

2021: A Year in Review

Reconciliation is a collective journey with no clear endpoint and this year has further demonstrated how important that journey continues to be.

We would like to thank everyone who took reconciliACTION in 2021 and joined us on this journey to foster meaningful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Here is a snapshot of how we built awareness, education, and made connections to move reconciliation forward this year.

Taking Over National Airwaves: A Day to Listen

In recognition of National Indigenous History Month, DWF joined together with Bell Media, Corus Entertainment Inc., Rogers Sports & Media, Stingray Radio, and more in an unprecedented collaboration to amplify and learn from Indigenous voices with A DAY TO LISTEN.

On June 30, 2021, with more than 500 radio stations participating, DWF took over national airwaves to share stories from Indigenous leaders, residential school Survivors, Elders, artists, and teachers throughout the day.

The collaboration won Best Community Service Initiative at the Canadian Radio Awards.


198+ Teams Walked for Wenjack

October 21st, 2021, Grade 3 to 5 students at Yarmouth Elementary School in Southwest Nova Scotia participated in their first Walk for Wenjack.

This year, more than 198 teams across the country Walked for Wenjack, including students and educators from over 90 schools, with 27,040 total participants from all but two provinces and territories. Students learned about Chanie’s story and the residential school system and raised $117,185 between September 14, 2021 and November 1, 2021 – nearly doubling our $60,000 goal!


20+ Virtual Events as Part of Secret Path Week

With the help of our friends at Exploring by the Seat of your Pants, DWF hosted more than 20 virtual events throughout Secret Path Week and broadcasted in schools across the country. Over 91,000 youth registered for these educational events, which included interactive talks with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Elders, leaders, artists, musicians and more.


‘Reconciliation Begins with You’ Video Series


Paddling on Both Sides by Blake Angeconeb

Beading Together by Corrina McKay

Snowshoe Teachings by Lucia Laford

We Need to Talk by Alina Pete

During Secret Path Week, DWF released four powerful videos from emerging Indigenous visual artists in collaboration with Justin Stephenson, director and animator of the Secret Path, and other artistic collaborators, including Buffy Sainte-Marie, Humble the Poet, Eekwol, and Isaac Murdoch. The Reconciliation Begins with You video series educates us and raises awareness of the need for reconciliation.


Legacy Schools Program Expanded

Our Legacy Schools Program expanded dramatically in 2021, with a total of 5245 active educators and 4438 schools and clubs involved across the country. We also distributed 1548 toolkits and 2698 boosters kits of new and updated resources to help educators continue engaging students and school staff about Indigenous Peoples, residential schools, and the true history of Canada.


Legacy Spaces Expanded

We have been so inspired by the ongoing commitment of our Legacy Spaces partners and are proud to announce that we have welcomed thirteen new organizations to the program since January! Here are just a few of the accomplishments from our partners in the last year:

  • IG Wealth Management was one of the first companies to create a Legacy Space, signing on in September of 2017. This year, they became the first partner to renew their five-year commitment to representing and celebrating Indigenous perspectives in their workplace. In honour of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, they hosted Perspectives on ReconciliACTION, a virtual event featuring Mike Downie, William Prince, Billy Alexander, and Lori Campbell.
  • From June to September of this year, Union Station hosted an exhibit in their West Wing concourse entitled Reconciliation Begins With You. The large-scale photography installation showcased DWF’s programming and events and was viewed by an estimated 200,000 travelers each day.
  • The Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie, Ontario launched the first Legacy Space in a healthcare setting. Part of the Legacy Space installation is on wheels, allowing it to travel throughout the hospital to engage with visitors, staff, and patients.
  • The Legacy Space inside Halifax City Hall was the site of several meetings to discuss removing a local statue of Edward Cornwallis and the renaming of Cornwallis Park. The land was officially renamed ‘Peace and Friendship Park’ after local treaties and features the first sign in Halifax with Mi’kmaq translation and hieroglyphs.

We would like to officially welcome our newest Legacy Spaces partners, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and theturnlab!


15,284 Took the 215+ Pledge

This year, many people in Canada learned for the first time of the horrors of residential schools as news broke of the recovered remains of 215 children buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Since then, many more graves have been recovered and more searches are underway. The number “215” is a symbol of the start of these recoveries and this movement.

In response, DWF launched the 215+ Pledge, which included reflections for the children who died in Canada’s residential schools, focused around the Five Stages of Grief.

15,284 people took the 215+ Pledge. The campaign included advocacy tools to engage your local Member of Parliament and elected officials, as well as curated recommended resources to continue your learning journey.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

In June, the federal government announced the creation of a new statutory holiday known as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to be recognized on September 30 each year. This day fulfills the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call-to-Action #80 and serves as a day of remembrance and reflection.

To recognize the day, DWF President and CEO, Sarah Midanik, hosted a discussion to explore this new day of reflection, what it  means for reconciliation in Canada, and how we can participate meaningfully.


Expanding the Artist Ambassadors Program

In 2019 we piloted the Artist Ambassador program with seven Artist Ambassador visits to high schools. July Talk’s Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay as well as Tyler Shaw were some of the first who visited Carson Graham Secondary School in North Vancouver, BC and Tyler Shaw at Sir Fredrick Banting School in London, ON.

This year, the Legacy Schools High School Artist Ambassador program expanded to include over 70 artists, scientists, writers, and musicians. The program brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists into high schools across Canada to inspire leadership and promote the journey of reconciliation. Through their work, artists were able to engage students in conversations about reconciliation.


Building the Youth Ambassador Program

This year, DWF created the Youth Ambassador program in partnership with RBC Future Launch. Throughout the 4-week leadership training program, 50 Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth from across Canada gained practical work experience, learned about Canada’s true history with residential schools, and became champions of reconciliation in their communities. Check out this feature on CityNews!

Next summer, we’ll be expanding the program to 100 Youth. Keep an eye out in the new year on how to apply!


DWF Update

We have had a busy few months and that’s a good thing! Here’s a little update on what we’ve been up to.

Youth Ambassador Program

DWF is excited to have completed its first ever Youth Ambassador Program back in August. We had the chance to work with 50 incredible students where they had the chance to participate in making Bannock, completed a painting workshop with Patrick Hunter, learn about financial literacy, learn how to network with a representative from RBC, spoke to Tanya Talaga about communications and writing for a career, and much more in the span of 4 weeks.

National day for Truth and Reconciliation

This year marked the first National day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30. Many Legacy Schools completed amazing reconciliACTIONs in their schools, clubs and communities to bring awareness in their own way.

“Students at Ecole Puntledge Park lined their favorite creek side trail with painted rock moccasins from each student. Left as single moccasins we hope the community members who walk the trail will think of those children who never made it home, the families left behind and those still dealing with the trauma.”

Students at St. George Elementary in New Brunswick showed their support by wearing orange and completed a walk and activities about the importance of understanding Canada’s true history with residential schools.

Harriet Visitor, DWF Board Of Director, and Chanie Wenjack’s niece was able to visit three Legacy Schools in Sudbury, ON to take part in the many wonderful events they had planned including St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School‘s Walk for Wenjack.

Secret Path Week (Sept 17th – 22nd)

We had the honour of witnessing 19 incredible guest speakers that delivered great experiences for Legacy Schools throughout Canada and even a class in Florida! We started off Secret Path Week with a DWF LIVE session with Angela Miracle Gladue who joined us for the third year in a row. Classic Roots, DJ O’Show, Ecko Alec, Julian Taylor, Harriet Visitor and G.R. Gritt were just a few of the many amazing sessions that took place. If you did not get to see any of the performances live do not worry! Everything is up on our YouTube @ The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund.  https://www.youtube.com/thegorddowniechaniewenjackfund

Ecole Puntledge Park, BC

We wanted to give a special shout out to all the guest speakers, schools, and everyone involved for making this unforgettable week incredibly special. Everyone involved had such an amazing and informative session that we cannot wait to see you at our next live session. We will be hosting at least two DWF LIVE sessions each month with the help of our friends at Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants (EBTSOYP).

Treaties Week (Ontario – Nov 1 – Nov 5)

Well, what is it? – “Treaties are agreements, voluntarily entered into by both parties, which provide for peaceful relations between the two nations. They are more than a simple written document; they are sacred agreements between the First Nations peoples and the British Crown with the Creator as witness.” (Office of the Treaty Commissioner, 2008) 

Why is this week so important? – It aims to help people in Ontario and throughout Canada better understand the importance of relationships built between Indigenous Peoples and the Crown.

We have plenty of resources under our Treaties section found in our Legacy School Programs tab.  https://downiewenjack.ca/our-work/legacy-schools-programs/resources/#toggle-id-5

Métis Week (Alberta – Nov. 15- Nov 21)

Métis Week is an opportunity for Métis people to share their stories, history and culture with people across Alberta. Louis Riel Day is held every year on November 16, the anniversary of Riel’s execution in 1885. During that year, Riel led Métis people in the Northwest Resistance, which took a stand against the Government of Canada because it was encroaching on Metis rights and way-of-life.

Check out our upcoming events for live sessions about these dates of significance. https://downiewenjack.ca/news-events/event-calendar/

Poster Contest Highlight

The Legacy School Program is proud to announce that there were over 100 submissions to this year’s Legacy Schools Spring Poster Contest, which closed on May 14th. Students were asked to illustrate how mental health influences their relationships with the land, their families and communities. We want to thank all the students who submitted their beautiful posters, and we hope they apply again next year. The teachers with the highest classroom participation were put into a draw, and the winner was Tyler Ernst from Kelowna Secondary. They won a DWF hoodie, and a classroom set of T-shirts for their students. Congratulations Tyler! Here are the winning students/posters from this year’s poster contest:  


Elementary School Category: 


1st Place: Kash at Ecole Puntledge Park in Courtenay, BC 



2nd Place:  Bella at Saint Martha’s School in Fort McMurray, AB 



3rd Place: Nevaeh at West Beach Elementary in Penticton, BC 



Middle School Category: 


1st Place: Mia at Ecole Dr. Knox Middle School in Kelowna, BC  



2nd Place: Joshua Castro, VIRTUAL LEARNING ACADEMY, St. Gabriel School, Ft. McMurray, AB 


High School Category: 

1st Place: Janelle at Cochrane High School in Cochrane, AB



2nd Place: Taylor at Kelowna Secondary in Kelowna, BC 



3rd Place: Julia from Kelowna Secondary in Kelowna, BC  


A statement from DWF

On May 28, we learned about the heartbreaking discovery of 215 children buried at a former residential school on Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc territory in Kamloops, BC. We stand with the Secwépemc community, all the families and communities of these young children, and all those impacted by residential schools in their grief. “It’s really hard when we know what they are going through. We always knew findings would come out one day.” said Daisy Munroe, Chanie Wenjack’s eldest sister.

Together, we can honour the lives of each child by learning about the longstanding impact residential schools continue to have today and committing to reconciliation. To move towards reconciliation, we need to understand the truth. There were 139 residential schools open in Canada between 1831 and 1996. An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children went through these schools and some reports claim a mortality rate of 60%. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission stated over 3,200 children died in the residential school system, but we know this number is much higher.

 Chanie’s sisters, Daisy, Pearl and Evelyn who have all attended residential schools have reflected on their own experiences after this finding. “We have shared our stories of unmarked graves, and many more lost children not documented in official records. Now everyone knows we weren’t lying” says Pearl Achneepineskum. Evelyn Baxter commented, “We have always said that there was a lot of children who went missing. There has never been an answer to what has happened to them.”  

There is work to be done at all levels to acknowledge and honour all the lost children of the residential school system. This work will bring pain and grief but is a necessary step to begin the healing process. Gord is quoted, “The next hundred years are going to be painful as we come to know Chanie Wenjack and thousands like him — as we find out about ourselves, about all of us — but only when we do can we truly call ourselves, “Canada.”

Some communities will remain silent as part of traditional protocols. Please be respectful, please hold space, please check-in where appropriate. It is important to recognize the refreshed pain, trauma, and grief that comes with this devastating news.

For immediate assistance for those who need it, 24/7 crisis lines are available:

  • The Indian Residential School Survivors and Family Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419
  • Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or text 686868
  • Or call your local mental health crisis line.

For inquiries to DWF, please contact staff@downiewenjack.ca.


Déclaration du Fond Gord Downie et Chanie Wenjack


Le 28 mai, nous avons appris de la découverte de 215 enfants sans tombes dans un ancien pensionnat sur le territoire de Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc à Kamloops, Colombie-Britannique. Nous sommes en solidarité avec la communauté de Secwépemc, avec les familles et communautés de ces jeunes enfants, et de tous ceux qui sont endeuiller par les pensionnats.

« C’est vraiment difficile quand on sait ce qu’ils vivent. Nous avons toujours su que la vérité sortiraient un jour » déclare Daisy Munroe, la sœur aînée de Chanie Wenjack.


La réconciliation doit être un effort collectif.  En premier lieu, ça commence avec la vérité.  De 1831 à 1996, il y avait 139 pensionnats ouverts au Canada et environ 150 000 enfants autochtones les ont fréquenté, plusieurs d’entre eux n’ont pas survécu.  Les rapports montrent que dans certains pensionnats, le taux de mortalité était plus de 60%.  Même si la Commission sur la vérité et la réconciliation a confirmé que plus de 3 200 enfants sont morts dans le système des pensionnats, le nombre réel est beaucoup plus élevé.


Les sœurs de Chanie, Daisy, Pearl et Evelyn ont aussi fréquenté des pensionnats, sauf qu’elles ont survécu afin d’ en parler.  Après la découverte, elles réfléchissent à leurs propres expériences. « Nous avons partagé nos histoires de tombes non-marqués et de nombreux enfants disparus et non-documentés dans les registres officiels. Maintenant, tout le monde sait que nous n’avons pas menti », exprime Pearl Achneepineskum.  Evelyn Baxter a commenté : « Nous avons toujours dit qu’il y avait beaucoup d’enfants qui avaient disparu. Il n’y a jamais eu de réponse à ce qui leur est arrivé. »


Il y a du travail à faire à tous les niveaux pour reconnaître et honorer tous les enfants qui ont été portés disparus dans le système des pensionnats. Ce travail apportera de la douleur et du chagrin mais c’est une étape nécessaire pour commencer le processus de guérison. Gord a cité : « Les cent prochaines années vont être douloureuses alors que nous connaîtrons Chanie Wenjack et des milliers comme lui – alors que nous découvrons nous-mêmes, nous tous – mais ce n’est que lorsque nous le faisons que nous pouvons vraiment nous appeler, le « Canada. »


Durant ce temps de deuil, certaines communautés resteront silencieuses dans le cadre des protocoles traditionnels. S’il vous plaît soyez respectueux, garder de l’espace, et faites un check-in avec ceux qui vivent le deuil.  Il est important de reconnaître que les émotions de douleur, de traumatisme et de chagrin renouvelés accompagnent cette nouvelle dévastatrice.


Pour accéder à l’assistance immédiate pour ceux qui en ont besoin, il y a des lignes de crise 24h/24 et 7j/7 de disponibles :

– La ligne de crise pour les survivants des pensionnats indiens et les familles au 1-866-925-4419

– Jeunesse, J’écoute au 1-800-668-6868 ou texto 686868

– Ou appelez votre ligne de crise en santé mentale locale.


Pour toute demande de renseignements à DWF, veuillez contacter staff@downiewenjack.ca.

I Will Not Be Struck Song Challenge

“Music is the ultimate medium for expressions of love, and those expressions find a beautiful backdrop in the environment. Music is also a popular rallying point — at its central core, it’s a way for people to get in touch with the best parts of themselves and to voice the love in their hearts.” – Gord Downie  


I Will Not Be Struck chords

I Will Not Be Struck piano and vocal sheet music

I Will Not Be Struck music – instrumental

Submission Form

Download Poster here

School Song Challenge:

We want you to sing, play, dance or perform “I WILL NOT BE STRUCK” from the Secret Path. 

Help us honor the 5th anniversary of the Secret Path by participating in our #legacyschoolsongchallenge. We are asking students, individuals, and artists to record a video of themselves performing “I Will Not Be Struck” from the Secret Path. Sing, dance, perform with a variety of attire and musical instruments, and consider incorporating a local Indigenous language into your performance. Be creative in expressing yourselves  

If your video is selected, it will be put into a video montage with other submissions from all over Canada, including submissions from some amazing artists like Kevin Hearn from the Secret Path Band and the Barenaked LadiesCreate a video performance and show us your spirit, your connection, your creativity and your commitment to “Do Something.”   

Challenge details: 

  1. Please start your video with an introduction. Tell us your name, your schools name, your city, then your province or territory. Be sure to acknowledge the traditional Indigenous territory of the land you are on.  

  2. Sing, dance, perform and video tape your interpretation of “I Will Not BStruck”. It can be a solo performance or with a group.  

  3. End your video submission by saying, “All My Relations” *pause* “Do Something” 

  4. Submit your video by June 30, 2021. SUBMIT HERE  

We welcome and encourage submissions from all of our relations in all languages and from all regions (remote, rural, urban) in Canada 

All my relations,” means all. When a speaker makes this statement, it’s meant as recognition of the principles of harmony, unity and equality. – R. Wagamese  

Please note: We are hoping to include as many submissions as possible but due to limited space, some submissions may not make the final edit.  


In this earth-like world  
In this earth-like world  
Before they arrived  

Under this sun-like star  
Under the sun-like star  
They civilized  

Run along the river  
On the Secret Path  
I will not be struck  
I’m not going back  

I can see my father’s face  
Warming his feet by the stove  
We used to have each other  
Now we only have ourselves  

Then I put my ear  
Then I put my ear  
Right against the rail  

So what I couldn’t hear  
What I couldn’t hear  
I would feel  

Run along the river  
On the Secret Path  
I will not be struck  
I’m not going back  

I been staring into space  
Forever or else  
Enter the wilderness  
And we only have ourselves  

What are Legacy Schools? 

The Legacy School Program at the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund is a free national initiative to engage, empower and connect students and educators to further reconciliation in Canada through awareness, education and action – #reconciliACTION. 

All schools throughout Canada are encouraged to join the program by signing up through the registration form. We provide Legacy Schools with free educational resources and program development to help ensure that the unique interests, rights, and perspectives of Indigenous peoples are recognized and taught about in schools and communities all over the country. 

Join us! 

Visit LegacySchools.ca 


Artist Ambassador Program  

The Artist Ambassador program brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous musicians and other artists into high schools across Canada to inspire student leadership and forward the journey of reconciliation in school communities.

Artists share their art, music and stories through workshops and/or performances, and engage students in learning and conversations about reconciliation. High schools hosting Artist Ambassadors are also encouraged to have students share their own stories, art, and reconciliACTIONs with their guests.

#legacyschoolsongchallenge    @DownieWenjack    #DoSomething

The 2021 Spring Poster Contest is here!

For many Indigenous communities, creating balance among the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects of life are equally important. This year we’re asking students to reflect on how they can balance their studies and stresses while remaining healthy.

For this year’s Spring Poster Contest, students should create a poster that answers:

How does mental health influence our ties to the land, family, community, and relationships?

How does this influence their holistic wellness (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being)?

Winning selections may appear in our Legacy School ReconciliACTION Guidebook, and the students will win an amazing prize pack from the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund including an autographed copy of Secret Path, signed by Jeff Lemire.
Teachers with the most class participation will be entered into a draw to win a classroom set of t-shirts as well as a DWF hoodie for the teacher!
Deadline: Friday, May 14, 2021
Winners Announced: May 21, 2021 (Prizes will be mailed out to schools or homes based on safety and health measures in place in that region)
Submissions should be high quality artwork 8.5×11 inches, at 300 dpi resolution. Please submit PDF files digitally to legacyschools@downiewenjack.ca.
DWF recommends engagement with Indigenous communities at the local regional level within your district.

Here are some possible examples of resources. Please use resources that are relevant to the First Nation, Métis, and/or Inuit communities in your area:

Note: If you have difficulty obtaining resources at the local or regional level you may contact your local Friendship Centre (urban) and/or the host First Nation, Métis, Inuit community within your area (urban, rural, remote). Contact your school’s Indigenous Education Department or search online for the corresponding community contact details.

The Educator Advisory Committee Welcomes New Members

Following a successful meeting on Dec. 5, 2020, the Educator Advisory Committee will meet again in March. Despite the difficult and unusual school year, our Legacy Schools have done great work in their efforts towards reconciliation. Their hard work and dedication has inspired our committee to continue to work as hard as possible – despite the circumstances – to improve and add to our Legacy Schools Program.  

We’re extremely proud to introduce two new members to our committee. Our new committee members join us from the East Coast, where they have been actively supporting and participating in our Legacy Schools Program. Joy Skanes from Newfoundland and Christina Sylliboy from Nova Scotia will be bringing their fresh perspectives into our discussions, and we thank them for their dedication to our Fund.  

Educator Advisory Committee Members for 2019-2021 

Harriet Visitor
Anishinaabe First Nation, Teacher, Chanie Wenjack’s niece, DWF Board Member, Ontario

Christina Sylliboy
Vice Principal, We’koqma’q Mikmaw School, Nova Scotia

Joy Skanes
Teacher, Leary’s Brook Junior High, Newfoundland

Krista Sherman
Dakota Sioux – Standing Buffalo Saskatchewan, Teacher, Winston Knoll Collegiate, Saskatchewan

Sharon Shadow
Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, Department of Education, Yukon

Buffy Sainte-Marie
Piapot First Nation, Teacher, Activist, Musician, Hawaii

Danielle Root
Listuguj First Nation, Mi’kmaq Education Coordinator at Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial (CSAP), Mi’kma’ki

Lisa Prinn
Manager, Education & Activation, Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, Ontario

Jon Patry
Assistant Principal, James Short Memorial (Early Development Centre, K-2), Alberta

Jessica Madiratta
Piapot First Nation, Teacher, Kitchener Community School (K-6), Saskatchewan

Jen Karpiuk
Métis, Teacher, Crescent Heights High School, Alberta

Jonah Hupfield
Anishinaabekwe, Martin Clan, Wasauksing First Nation
Indigenous Studies and Anishinabemowin   9-12, Near North District School Board, Ontario

Greg Halcrow
Pimicikamak Cree Nation, Director of Education, Cross Lake Education Authority, Manitoba

James Groat
Tuscarora, Consultant Indigenous Education (K-8), District School Board of Niagara, Ontario

Sheila Francis
Mi’kmaq, Director of Education, Pictou Landing First Nation School, Nova Scotia

Kelly Fontaine
Sagkeeng First Nation, Teacher, Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School, Manitoba

Andrea Eby
Teacher, St. Bonaventure School (K-6), Ontario

Corinne Chappell
Lennox Island First Nations, Colonel Gray High School 9-12, Prince Edward Island

Brad Baker
Squamish Nation, District Principal, Indigenous Education, Safe Schools and Careers, North Vancouver School District K-12, British Columbia

Trina Allinotte
Teacher, Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate Institute 9-12, Ontario

Pearl Achneepineskum
Anishinaabe First Nation, Chanie Wenjack’s sister, Ontario

We are currently still seeking members from Nunavut, Quebec, the Northwest Territories and Labrador. If you are from these regions you can apply here. 

Appointment to the Committee is one two-year term, and when applicable, a second term may be added. Meetings will typically be held virtually four times per year. 

The Educator Advisory Committee for Legacy Schools will advise current and future programs and participate in their development and quality assurance as needed. Committee members will also assist in identifying resources, including guest speakers, field placement, partnerships and various opportunities to further Legacy Schools programming. 

Educator Advisory Committee members are ambassadors and liaisons between DWF, schools, students, educators and the community. 

The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund Educator Advisory Committee for Legacy Schools consists of members of First Nations, Métis, Inuit, and non-Indigenous educators. They advise on educational resources and program development for Legacy Schools to help ensure that the unique interests, rights and perspectives of Indigenous peoples are recognized and implemented in schools and communities throughout Canada. Members will also help assess and evaluate the impact of Legacy Schools, furthering DWF’s mission to improve the lives of Indigenous people by building awareness, education, and connections between all people in Canada.



ReconciliACTIONs At Legacy Schools

This past week many of our Legacy Schools took part in Secret Path Week, a week-long event that is held from October 17th to October 22nd to honour the passing of Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack. Throughout the school year, and especially during Secret Path Week, we encourage our Legacy School educators and students to take part in reconciliACTIONs. These are meaningful actions that work towards reconciliation, creating awareness, learning and sharing to create strong relationships among all Canadians.

We would love to acknowledge some of the great reconciliACTIONs that have been led by  Legacy Schools not only during Secret Path Week but throughout the 2020 school year. We hope their powerful actions  inspire you and those around you to get involved and #DoSomething.

Range Lake North School

Thanks to Ms. Townsend for sharing what the students at Range Lake North School in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories have been up to during Secret Path Week. They started their week with a Zoom visit from author Monique Gray Smith who read her books When We Are Kind and You Hold Me Up to students followed by a discussion period. As well, all Phys Ed. classes were visited by the Aboriginal Sports Circle who taught them Northern Dene games. Throughout the week classes watched performances and met up with various artists such as Leela Gilday, Robyn Scott, and Diana Rockwell – a local student who created an original song about Chanie’s life.


Range Lake North School students and staff part took in Walk for Wenjack and held a toonie drive fundraiser. They reached their goal of raising $600 to represent the 600km that Chanie set out to walk. Their donation progression was documented on a map of the Northwest Territories, that enabled students to grasp a better understanding of the distance Chanie was trying to walk.

Lastly, for Orange Shirt Day students created fantastic posters that were displayed at the front of the school for their community to see.





Westmount Public School

At Westmount Public School in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Ms. Murdoch shared the reconciliACTIONs her class conducted in their second year as a Legacy School.

As part of their first Walk for Wenjack, her grade 6 class took great initiative in leading fundraising in order to create awareness and to take their part in making a kinder, and more understanding Canada. They created their own donation system where if you donated $1 you got your name written on a footprint, a feather when you donated $5 and a hat when you donated $10 or more. To track their donations, they created a beautiful display in their hallway for the whole school to see.

Students at Westmount School are continuing to further their education and understanding of Canada’s true history through Secret Path and many other great resources.










Sheppard Public School

Lastly, we would like to recognize Ms. Lukezich and the grade 4 and 5 students from Sheppard Public School in Kitchener, Ontario. Ms. Lukezich’s grade 4 and 5 French immersion students have been doing some amazing work in their class and school by learning about Indigenous history and culture through books. They have also found a passion about learning and bringing awareness to Indigenous rights issues through their current events unit.

During Secret Path Week, students watched several DWF LIVE sessions, such as the musical performance Leela Gilday. Ms. Lukezich’s students created some incredible posters for their Walk for Wenjack and were shown great support from community members while out on their walk. Most students wore purple during their Walk, and some even wore funky hats in honour of Gord.

To all our Legacy School educators and students, we would like to thank you for taking part in so many creative forms of reconciliACTION. Keep up the great work, and keep your passion for learning alive as you all are making a meaningful impact to making a better Canada that is greatly appreciated by all! We leave you with quotes from Ms. Lukezich and Ms. Murdoch that we should all follow;

“We continue learning all year. It’ not just for this week. Although we do a lot this week, it is not just a unit that happens one time in my class.”

“From our youngest to our oldest learners, we hope to educate each other as we look at the history of residential schools and the long-lasting impact they had and continue to have on families. The conversations are being had not only at school but at the dinner table as well.”

Congratulations to the Legacy Schools Poster Contest Winners!

Early in May, we challenged our Legacy Schools students to design posters that answer the question “What does it mean to be an Indigenous Ally? They definitely rose to the occasion! We loved all of the posters that were submitted, and it was certainly difficult to select the winners from elementary, middle, and secondary schools. Winners will receive a prize pack from DWF and appear in our Legacy Schools calendar for 2020-2021.

Our elementary school winner, from École James Nisbet Community School, was Liam! Congratulations, Liam!

Our middle school winner, from Lillian Berg Public School, was Darius! Congratulations!

Finally, our high school winner! From St. Pius X High School, congratulations to Pippa!

We want to give a few special shout outs to some of the other participants. Firstly, we award Ms. Bhathal-Paz at École James Nisbet Community School, Seven Oaks School Division as her class had the highest number of students participate in the contest! We will be providing this amazing teacher with a copy of Canadian Geographic’s Indigenous Atlas for her outstanding commitment. Here are some of the great posters that came from their school:








Close behind them was St. Pius X High School, Ignace Public School, Waterford Public School, and École Confédération. We appreciate the participation and enthusiasm of your students! Here are some of our amazing submissions from these schools:


We love to see the creativity of Legacy School students! We received a ton of submissions from students, and they clearly put a lot of time and effort into their work! Here are some of our favourite posters:


Congratulations to all of our winners! We were so pleased with your submissions. Many of these will be displayed in our new Legacy School calendar for 2020-2021. Keep an eye out for information about your prize pack, and be sure to follow us on social media, where we will be posting your beautiful posters! A big thank you to these three students, as well as all of the students who participated in this year’s contest. Also, thank you to the teachers who helped their students coordinate their submissions! We couldn’t have done it without you, and we are already excited to see what next year’s contest will bring. Miigwech, and have a great summer!