Gladys We Never Knew

Since February 2021 Grade 5 French Immersion students in Division 15 have worked through the French version of the lessons in the 2015 resource Gladys We Never Knew as recommended by district Aboriginal Education consultant Leanne Mccoll. Some students had previously started the lessons with their previous year teacher but, due to the pandemic, were not able to complete all the lessons. For those students they were able to explore the materials a second time with a more mature perspective.

The beginning of the resource fosters a relationship to a young girl, Gladys, who lived in Spuzzum, BC in the early 20thcentury. Together we learned of Spuzzum, the Fraser Canyon region, Gladys’ family, and of her way of life before being sent to the residential school in Kamloops, approximately 250Km from her home.  Some of the most poignant lessons we learned was of the injustice of the Indian Agents using the family’s plea letter to build a school in Spuzzum to gain names of the children they would take to Kamloops as well as the adapted KAIROS blanket exercise where students had the chance to act out the slow stripping away of traditional territories through treaties and unceded agreements.

We explored the idea that Gladys’ experience represents a common experience among many residential school victims and survivors which was confirmed by other stories like Shi-shi etko and Je ne suis pas un numéro (I am Not a Number).   We continued towards defining the idea of reconciliation through art with Project of Heart as well one final assignment: a hand-written letter to Gladys (in French) that included facts they learned about the historic injustices towards Canada’s First Peoples as a result of the Indian Act and residential schools as well as considering Gladys’ perspective. 

This rich experience was powerful and complex. It required students to experience and enact empathy for Gladys, a person we will never fully know because of colonial racism and social injustice. May this work be one small step towards reconciliation at Homma Elementary and our greater community.

Submitted by Mr. Autio and students of Division 15 

 

Updated: Friday, November 26, 2021