Spotlight: Comox Valley Schools

The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund is proud to say that all the schools in the Comox Valley School District are now members of our Legacy Schools program. All 23 school sites within the district will receive toolkits in preparation for the 2019-2020 school year. Not only is the whole school district now prepared to “Do Something” and create reconciliACTIONs moving forward, but some schools and students have already done great things this past year. These initial steps are important to recognize and highlight, as they helped introduce and inspire the rest of the district to become Legacy Schools, and support each other on their own path towards reconciliation. Their successes were recently highlighted in an article in their local newspaper that speaks on how well the district has come together to support Indigenous students and education.

During the 2018-2019 school year, we launched our Legacy Schools poster contest to ask students “what does reconciliation mean to you?”. Two of our winners came from the same Indigenous K/1 class at Ecole Puntledge Park. These two young artists showed that there’s no such thing as being too young to understand Indigenous history and education.

At times, both educators and parents alike may steer away from certain topics due to a feeling that the child isn’t mature enough to fully understand and appreciate the topic. Instead of shying away from the subject, teachers from Comox Valley have worked to help scaffold the topics related to our shared history, and create entry points for young students to access and learn in a safe space.  If collectively we can provide the tools and support, students of any age can thrive.

In early 2019, DWF launched the pilot phase of our High School Artist Ambassador program. One of our visits was held at G.P. Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay, B.C. DJ Kookum, an Indigenous artist, visited the school to share her story and her musical talent with the students.

The Artist Ambassador program brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous 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.

DJ Kookum was an incredible ambassador who willingly shared her backstory with the students. She also showed that being an Indigenous musician doesn’t mean being confined to traditional methods, but that you can also share your story and message with any instrument – like a laptop and turntable.

Charlotte Hood-Tanner and her senior art class from Highland Secondary School took on a beautiful year end project. This project highlighted everything our Legacy Schools program is striving to encourage and promote across Canada. Charlotte noted that the students and herself had a focus “on cultural appreciation, not cultural appropriation.” This is an important step in the reconciliation process. To help with this, the class connected with the local K’omoks First Nation.

A key piece of their project was honouring the Indigenous K’omoks language on their posters; this ties into the United Nations proclamation that 2019 is the Year of Indigenous Languages. Providing students with the opportunity to appreciate and honour local Indigenous peoples through art is a great step forward towards reconciliation as it begins to bridge the gap between schools and communities.

We are so happy with the steps educators and students have already taken towards reconciliation. We are excited to support Comox Valley on their learning journey and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for them, and what other reconciliACTIONs they will complete in the coming school year.