In honour of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Rocky View Schools (RVS) unveiled a temporary outdoor art installation in partnership with Blackfoot artists at the public school division’s Education Centre in Airdrie on Oct. 5.
The exhibit followed several initiatives planned during the week of Sept. 25 to Oct. 1, aimed to help students and staff deepen their understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing prior to the commemorative holiday, which was observed for the first time on Sept. 30.
According to an RVS press release, the division hopes to recognize the “tragic history of residential schools in Canada” with its recognition of the new national holiday.
“Recognizing this day is an important step in furthering our commitment to truth and reconciliation,” said Superintendent Greg Luterbach in the same press release. “We encourage every student and staff member to use this day as a time to reflect on the legacy of the Canadian residential school system and to honour survivors, their families, and communities.”
During the RVS Board of Trustees’ first regular meeting of the school year on Sept. 9, trustees officially recognized the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in the division's 2021-22 calendar. The decision meant Sept. 30 was a non-instructional for RVS students and a non-operational day for staff.
The trustees said they hoped to acknowledge the importance the holiday holds in recognizing the history and legacy or residential schools in Canada. In the days leading up to the holiday, schools within the division held both teaching sessions and presentations to highlight the importance and meaning behind the day.
“[It’s important] to acknowledge, reflect, and observe truth and reconciliation, the impact of residential schools, and to honour the survivors, their families and communities,” said Luterbach during the Sept. 9 board meeting.
In response to the board’s decision, many RVS schools have also chosen to shift Orange Shirt Day – a day when orange clothing is worn to commemorate the victims and survivors of residential schools, typically on Sept. 30 – to another day during the same week.
The art installation, entitled Conciliation, was a collaborative effort between PARK Production House, Blackfoot artists Angel Aubichon and Alex Manitopyes, and Mark Lang at Crossfield’s CP Wood Gallery.
“RVS is incredibly grateful to be loaned this work of art, which will serve as a visible symbol of our commitment to truth and reconciliation, as well as our ongoing learning about Indigenous ways of knowing and being,” Luterbach said in the press release. “By displaying Conciliation, we hope to demonstrate increased recognition of all the Indigenous peoples whose footprints have marked these lands, as we work to promote inclusion and celebrate diversity in all our schools.”
The installation, consisting of three colourful cubes that include both Métis and Blackfoot treaty acknowledgements etched onto them, was previously featured at the Chinook Blast Festival in Calgary.
“Conciliation features three large, strikingly colourful art boxes presenting Blackfoot and Métis land acknowledgements,” read an email statement from RVS on Oct. 5. “These beautiful pieces stand prominently in front of the Education Centre as a symbol of RVS’ commitment to truth and reconciliation.”
The statement said RVS trustees, executives, and staff were joined by Blackfoot Elder Saa’kokoto, Indigenous performers, members of the local fire department, W.H. Croxford students, and others for the dedication ceremony.
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