A Letter to the Editor - GTEC Green Technology Education Centre

I subscribed to the GTEC Reader a few years ago, and enjoy my email opportunities to learn and be challenged. The recent power point re: the soul shattering discovery of the 215 unmarked children’s grave at the Kamloops Indian Residential School is exemplary. I finished my career as special needs teacher/ coordinator/ program collaborator and counsellor at Skelep School of Excellence, a beautiful new school designed, built and run by the Tk’emlups Band and Secwepemc Nation.

The mandate is restoration and teaching of the Secwepemc language and culture through interactive teaching models involving community elders, as well as provision of an academic program of excellence which meets the needs of every student. The school was built adjacent to the overbearing red brick building wherein so much suffering and evil occurred. Some of my colleagues were Kamloops Residential School survivors of that old building, and others were descendants of survivors. I was one of three” white” staff, and was given the honor of being “in their home” because of what my varied special education experience and knowledge could help them create.

Together with elders, the administrator, and a few colleagues we took an adventure filled road trip to a similarly created school in Fort Nelson, to learn and observe and listen. Upon return we were able to enhance our model further. I was graced with meeting and being called friend with so many people for whom I have profound respect. One of the highlights was being invited to participate in a family sweat in a lodge my friend had built on her property in Cold Creek. Her Mom, a medicine woman, led the sweat.

At the end of (seemingly endless) three rounds in the small lodge which we entered crawling through an opening similar to the passage into an igloo and about the same size, and at a temperature similar to our recent heat dome, her elderly Mom succinctly said to me “ I didn’t think a white woman could last 3 rounds on her first sweat”. I took it as a compliment! She told me the crawl out of the passageway symbolized our passage into this world at birth. And I did feel reborn. My lengthy recollection of the grand finale of my career reflects my passion about the beauty of indigenous culture and peoples, and the effect your video had on me.

My energy lies in the recognition oflistening to, assuming accountability for, and rectification of the injustices suffered by Indigenous people since colonialization. My gratitude lies in the honor I had in learning about Indigenous culture and teachings first-hand from my beloved Indigenous colleagues and Tk’emlups Band community members, most especially the children and elders., and my meeting of other First Nation Educational Steering Committee members through conferences, workshops and ceremonies. My joy lies in my professional journey culminating with a final position that blended so many facets and passions of my professional and personal being.

After my extreme frustration and heartbreak after the disruption to the very final step of my MACP, I am experiencing a new story instalment. An alternative conclusion.

….. the huge gift of my voice finally being valued and heard. It is a gift toward healing and closure… another type of sacred affect that is the spin-off of your work. I wrote a relevant letter to the editor regarding Canada’s current most critical social issue; the value of and justice deserved for our wise, invaluable, beautiful Indigenous people… The conclusion to my story of my magical time immersed in my City U MACP(Masters of Arts in Counselling Psychology)studies, learning from the best of the best DID turn out to have a happy ending.

As I expressed at the start of what I thought would be a short response to you, thanks again for precipitating another inspiring and energizing Saturday morning class with you, Prof. Henley. This time I didn’t have to wake at dawn and drive in from White Rock!

With gratitude,
Janis