Tawingo College students learn about reconciliation in exchange with N.W.T. school

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Reconciliation is a complex process, one that begins with understanding.

To understand, you first have to learn, and learning is at the heart of a student exchange between Huntsville’s Tawingo College and Deh Gáh School in Fort Providence, N.W.T.

Eleven students in grades eight and nine and three chaperones traveled from the northern hamlet on October 19 to spend a week with a dozen youth from Tawingo College. The N.W.T. students spent two nights at their new friends’ homes then the next five nights in cabins on campus at Tawingo sharing meals and daily activities. They participated in a variety of activities, games and workshops, developing friendships and experiencing life in Muskoka.

For the students at both schools, making new friends and visiting the CN Tower were the two things they were most excited about.

Brad Thom, one of the Deh Gáh chaperones, said opportunities like this offer a chance to teach youth how people from different communities live and that “…not everyone lives the way we do.” By spending time together, the students from both communities learned some essential skills to help understand and learn from each other and build both new relationships and lifelong connections.

Tawingo principal Tia Pearse said that the goal of the exchange was to “…get to know each other, to grow and to build a future of understanding.”

Deh Gáh student Ethan Canadian (left) and Tawingo student Matthew Hochfellner (right) with Northern Loco program coordinator Jason Collard

Deh Gáh student Ethan Canadian (left) and Tawingo student Matthew Hochfellner (right) with Northern Loco program coordinator Jason Collard

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action, created in 1995, pushed all levels of government to fund and support programs and services in a focused effort to repair the damage caused by residential schools. In that spirit, Northern Loco, a company based in Fort Providence whose primary goal is to “develop innovative solutions to the challenges facing our communities”, organized an exchange between the Deh Gáh School and Glebe Collegiate Institute, a high school in Ottawa, in 2018. This year the Ottawa school was unable to participate in the exchange; Tawingo College was willing and able to step in, with students in grades six through eight participating.

As the youth spent time together, the hope was that they would develop relationships that will grow their understanding of another culture and impact their value and belief systems.

When the students were asked what Truth and Reconciliation meant to them, Andy, a grade seven student from Tawingo College, said, “In the past we’ve made mistakes and now we’re trying to fix it. Not just apologizing, but fixing it.”

The Tawingo students are now considering a trip in early 2020 to spend time with their new friends in Fort Providence where they will have an opportunity to participate in an on-the-land culture camp as well as attend a youth conference covering a variety of topics including reconciliation, acceptance and making informed decisions.

Fraser McTurk, a teacher at Tawingo who helped make the exchange happen, hopes that this experience will have a long-term impact on the students and potentially encourage them to explore the diversity of culture in their own communities.

The Tawingo and Deh Gáh students gathered for one last group photo. Tawingo may continue the exchange with a visit to Fort Providence in the spring (Fraser McTurk)

The Tawingo and Deh Gáh students gathered for one last group photo. Tawingo may continue the exchange with a visit to Fort Providence in the spring (Fraser McTurk)

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2 Comments

  1. Kudos to both schools: Walking a mile in each others’ shoes is the surest road to understanding. Unfortunately, there was no certainty regarding the return visit in 2020. Surely, if a school in the N.W.T. can manage two trips south (although grants are likely available to them); one trip north is not out of the question for a private school like Tawingo College. Could anyone tell me if Glebe Collegiate (a public school) made the return trip?

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