Not just teachers, but bus drivers, clerical and support staff and maintenance crews were among those going back to school Monday.
Approximately 900 Vernon School District staff took part in Indigenous-focused non-instructional day Sept. 25 at Vernon Secondary.
While teaching staff were the only ones required to take part, the district went a step further and invited, and paid for, CUPE staff to join the day of learning.
“It was a wonderful day of learning for all SD22 staff that centered around Indigenous voice and Indigenous stories, and how making space for those voices and stories can contribute to reconciliation,” said Charity Sakakibara, Indigenous education director.
An Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) elder and drummer started the day off ahead of a presentation called Unpacking the ‘Truth’ in Truth and Reconciliation through Story, from Anne Tenning, an Indigenous education consultant, who is also the director of Indigenous education and equity for the Central Okanagan School District.
Tenning, whose mother attended a residential school, was the first person in her family to graduate from high school.
“We are all on a journey to deepen our cultural and community connections, but this can be challenging due to the aftermath of colonization and residential schools which impacts many Indigenous people in so many different ways. What matters is being inclusive and to welcome people into the circle, rather than excluding them,” said Tenning, who spoke about the need to respect the diversity of Indigenous peoples.
“We can teach about the darker aspects of Indigenous history in B.C./Canada from a stance of hope, healing, resilience, resistance – strength-based.”
An Indigenous student panel then shared their experiences in the school district to help staff move forward.
“One of the big messages was the importance of relationships and connections with students,” said Sakakibara. “Connecting on an individual level and seeing them as people. Honouring their differences and identities.
“They talked about folks in particular who have made a difference for them.”
National Truth and Reconciliation Day is Saturday, Sept. 30, but schools will observe the day on Friday.
For some it will involved wearing orange shirts in honour of the children who did not make it home from residential schools, for others there will be lessons and teachings on the subject and some will incorporate special ceremonies, including drumming and dancing.
“We really want to honour those people who’ve experienced that and the people that have been taken, those children,” said Sakakibara.
Outside of the schools there are several events taking place including a Splatsin walk in Enderby.
The North Okanagan Friendship Centre has a walk taking place in Vernon, on Thursday, Sept. 28, starting at 10:30 a.m. from the Early Years building at 2902 29th Ave. The walk will take part in the Indigenous Learning Tour and return to the centre for snacks. The Friendship Centre is also hosting a barbecue Wednesday, Oct. 4 from 12 to 2 p.m. at 2904 29th Ave.
OKIB hosts a community gathering Sept. 30 at Komasket Park at 1 p.m. with drums, singing, knowledge sharing and a meal.
A free movie, When You Laugh All Your Sadness Goes Away, is shown Saturday 6:30 p.m. at Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.