Sitting on the steps inside Alouette Elementary, Brayden pointed at the middle of his poster.
“The kid at the bottom is supposed to be me going to residential school,” the Grade 7 student said. “Because I’m Indigenous as well, so it’s like I’m going to residential school.”
“And then there’s a cross at the very top, meaning since they’re trying to make them Christian and get rid of their culture.”
Brayden’s poster is one of six being recognized by the planning committee for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation community event being held in Maple Ridge.
The students had been asked to create thoughtful posters to advertise the gathering with the theme, ‘Healing Journey Continues Through Truth and Reconciliation.’
Elder Coleen Pierre from the Katzie First Nation has been organizing the event for the past 10 months, along with PLEA Community Services, the Fraser River Indigenous Society and other community members and organizations.
“How I came about that name is there will always be healing no matter what angle we look at,” she said.
Once the name of the event was determined, Pierre wanted to get students involved.
“I said, I want to know, I want to get it from a youth, a student perspective,” Pierre explained. “I want to know how they define it.”
Ayaan, who is in Grade 6, had the winning design that’s now being used to raise awareness about the event. He says the healing journey is a process.
“It means like maybe you won’t ever be the same, but slowly, you might try to get better and better, and eventually, you might be able to recover from that. But even if you don’t, it’s still good to be in a better mental place than you were before,” Ayaan explained.
When the planning committee saw the students’ submissions, they wanted to express their gratitude. On Tuesday, they met with the students at Alouette Elementary to say thank-you and give each of them a gift card to express their appreciation.
“The students nowadays are so brilliant, their minds,” Pierre said. “And it’s not a matter of their minds wandering. They really got there.”
The illustrations are going to help them understand and come to terms with it all, Pierre added.
“It’s not just pictures, it’s their own thoughts…. And that gives me more reason to go for the gold,” she said.
“I’m determined to make my circle stronger – not every year – every day. And it’s through the goodness of their hearts and minds that is making it possible for what I’m accomplishing.”
The community gathering will be held between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2023, at Memorial Peace Park. The collaborative event will support learning and healing, provide a safe space for those impacted by residential schools, and include Indigenous drum groups, special guest speakers, orange shirt painting, vendors, and the creation of a community art project.