As part of the important work in Canada around truth and reconciliation, students and staff from Fletcher's Meadow Secondary School are participating in the 4 Canoes Project, a reconciliation project, to teach about First Nations cultures and traditions. The project will feature four birch bark canoes to represent the four groups who have contributed to Canada's present and who will contribute to its future: Indigenous people, the French, the English and New Canadians. Fletcher's Meadow built the canoe to represent the English.
"Students are going through all the steps, the process, of how to build a birch bark canoe, led by a master canoe builder," says Katie Wilson, vice-principal at Fletcher's Meadow. "Everything was done traditionally and the students were taught Indigenous history, traditions, cultures as they built the canoe."
Over the past few years, Fletcher's Meadow has focused on Indigenous studies to support Indigenous students and continue to share resources, present professional development, and include Indigenous works and history into our curriculum for all students.
Josy Thomas, master canoe builder, artist and Haudenosaunee carver, has been building birch bark canoes with his grandfather since he was 12 years old. He is now sharing his knowledge of canoe building and culture with students as well as giving them an appreciation of how the descendants of the craft's inventors travelled across this country centuries ago.
"I have realized that not a lot of people out there know about our history and the type of items that Indigenous people would handcraft. So, I then realized that if you know something not many people know, then you have a responsibility, to share it and hope the knowledge can continue."
Students say they are proud to have had the opportunity to learn how to construct the canoe.
"This is something that is not taught in the traditional curriculum, so it makes me proud to work closely with classmates to learn about this craft that Indigenous peoples have been doing for hundreds of years," says Bradley Stutt, student at Fletcher's Meadow. "This experience was more than just building a boat from bark."
As part of the school's work in Indigenous Education, students and staff were presented with congratulations from Brampton West Minister of Parliament Kamal Khera on behalf of the Government of Canada for their contributions to Canada's reconciliation efforts with Indigenous communities.