Blackfoot naming ceremony gives Gilbert Paterson art project a name

Wednesday afternoon represented a unique opportunity to bring First Nations and non-First Nations youth together to engage in a dialogue concerning Truth and Reconciliation.

Students from Gilbert Paterson Middle School have been working with students from Bob Edwards Junior High School in Calgary to explore, experience and understand Truth and Reconciliation.

The two schools, which include two diverse groups of students, will now being the process on creating art based on work that is reflective of the true historical and contemporary relationship between First Nations and Canada.

Wednesday, Paterson hosted a naming ceremony for the school’s art project, as students, school officials and Blackfoot elders, including Bruce Wolfchild and Mary Fox, gathered for the event. Our Children Speak the Truth, was the name given to the project.

“This is the first time a Blackfoot naming ceremony has been held at Paterson,” said Andrea Fox, the District principal of FNMI location.

Students are both schools are continuing to carefully examine and research an issue pertaining to First Nations history in Canada, with the assistance of their teachers, along with project consultants, artists, Blackfoot elders and FNMI liaisons.

Students will have the opportunity to attend various foundational presentations to introduce Truth and Reconciliation, including presentations by guest artists, elders, First Nations educators and human rights educators.

Both schools will now have students create an art piece reflective of their enquiries, knowledge and understanding of the historical issue of their choice. As students begin their creative process, they will collaborate and consult with the project committee.

“The art project has been a phenomenal experience,” said Paterson Grade 7 teacher Jesse Gamble, who added students have been presented a wide range of topics to research and explore.

Topics include Blackfoot food, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Treaty 7, Shannen's Dream, Writing-On-Stone, Residential Schools and beyond.

“Kids have begun to explore these topics and create artwork as the process progressed,” said Gamble.

Students are still in the early stages of their projects and have predominately used notebook/pencil to draft their thought processes. Students are able to explore a variety of mediums, which include paint, sketch, prints/presses, collage, digital arts, etc.

“The choice is theirs,” said Gamble, who added he sees many positives to the project. “The project has been a beneficial experience on a variety of levels. First, students are able to engage with other members of GPMS at a cross-grade level. Kids who would not normally interact are able to collaborate with a shared purpose. Second, this predominately FNMI group shares a collective experience as they explore various topics surrounding their heritage. I cannot stress enough the impact this has had with those involved. Third, the project reinforces concepts and perspectives present in their academic outcomes (primarily Social Studies). Participants get a bit of an advantage within the classroom having already engaged with the content in a meaningful way. Fourth, these students have a meaningful environment to be at. Rather than waiting for the bus by meandering the halls or sitting near the front door, these kids have been given an engaging opportunity that grants them a place to be and a purpose to fulfill. Fifth, students have been given the chance to transcend the school walls and connect with students beyond the confines of Gilbert Paterson.”

Gamble added the connection with students in Calgary is another unique aspect of the project.

“By collaborating with students at Bob Edwards School in Calgary, our kids get to interact with students from a large urban area, with different demographics and different challenges. Bridging this gap is a key component to initiate reconciliation.”

One the artwork is completed, it will be included in a professionally-curated show in Calgary in April, and then in Lethbridge during the Art’s Alive and Well in the Schools display at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Upon completion of the art project, students at both schools will engage in reflective dialogue with each other, and provide an exit interview with the committee to share their experiences.

Each school will also host a feast and a tour of their school for the visiting school, in addition to a sharing circle to help students get to know one another. To celebrate and honour the culmination of this special collaboration between Gilbert Paterson Middle School and Bob Edwards Junior High School, student art pieces will also be part of a special art show at the Calgary Board of Education office to showcase the artwork.

Date posted: March 1, 2018

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