#3 – College Class Conversation on Reconciliation Processes

Allan Ross, a teacher of Cree and Aboriginal Studies at Norquest College in Edmonton, made NDHR the focus for two of his classes on May 26, 2009. Alan invited Jack and Mary Jean Freebury, who have helped organize NDHR events in Edmonton for the past 8 years, to provide background information about NDHR including its aims and purpose.

There were 15 students who participated in the Cree class and in addition to speaking about NDHR Jack shared some reconciliation experiences and lessons he had learned about how to build effective relationships with others from whom he had been divided. Mary Jean shared the story of how her father, a country doctor in northern Alberta, had saved the lives of many First Nations people during the 1929 smallpox epidemic. Dr Carlisle purchased vaccine, using his own funds since there were no government funds available, and vaccinated all the members of a nearby reserve except for eleven of them who, out of fear, hid under a bridge and refused to be vaccinated. All those who had been vaccinated lived and all eleven of those who were not, died. One of the students was very moved by that story since she was a member of that First Nation. Richard Letendre, director of administration for the Ben Calf Robe program at Norquest, also shared his perspectives with the students. He led a lively discussion on how to ensure respect and safety in family relations.

The aboriginal studies class included a dozen students in the classroom and many others in three northern Alberta communities who participated through an online internet connection. There was some discussion about the need for respect and unity among the various aboriginal groups – Metis, First Nations, off reserve and on reserve. Several students shared how they had found healing and were on the path to build a better future.
In conclusion, Allan Ross feels strongly that having The National Day of Healing and Reconciliation as a topic of discussion in the classroom is much needed and a very worthwhile exercise.

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