Students at Montreal’s Beurling Academy are on a creative mission to honour the memory of Indigenous children, one moccasin at a time.
The students are learning about how, since the late 19th century, 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their families and forced to attend residential schools.
To learn from and honour Indigenous children, students learned how hand-sew small moccasins during a community initiative called Project 215.
The workshop was hosted by Rebekah Elkerton. She is Anishinaabe from Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, near London, Ont.
Her grandparents attended residential schools, and her father was a victim of the 60s’ Scoop. Rebecca Elkerton says her grandparents rarely spoke about the pain of their past.
“The way that they raised their kids, it was very clear that they had experienced their own trauma and their own abuse,” she said.
Leading the workshops is an opportunity for Elkerton to “heal together through creativity and to establish a common ground.”
“I think it’s important to share our traditions with non-Indigenous people. And most importantly, it’s about starting a conversation,” she said.
Tashaiya Mcrae-Evans, a Grade 8 student, said she felt disgusted when she learned about what happened to Indigenous children at residential schools.
“They’re all humans and we treated them badly, just because they’re from a different culture,” she said.
Jessica Hernandez, who operates a bead business in Kahnawake, a First Nations reservation southwest of Montreal, was the inspiration for this activity.
Once the moccasins are done, they will be on display at the school.