4500 km and a million stories between them!

Heather Mcphail, group organizer, and her students from Central Peel Secondary School in Brampton, Ontario visited an indigenous reserve in Hay River, Northwest Territories! Sixteen multicultural students in grades 10-12 were chosen to travel with 3 chaperones.  Here’s her story:

It has been a whirlwind year since I was introduced to the Experiences Canada exchange program. I clicked on their apply button thinking, “well, that seems fun!”  

We kicked things off in November with a school-wide assembly. We had guest speakers in to discuss the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, Henriette Thompson, director of Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice at the Anglican Church of Canada and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

It was followed by a KAIROS Blanket Activity — a teaching tool to share the historic and contemporary relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. Some students offered potent feedback during the reflection ceremony. “All I can say is… I’m just disappointed.  Disappointed in Canada. I can’t believe what Canada has done not only to its own people but to the ones that it has fostered,” said Michael Sarafyn. “It is an honour to be part of this awareness…I hope more people take time to learn about Indigenous history, that way history does not repeat itself,” said Maeva . “I, myself, am an immigrant from Cameroon, yet I have a better life than the real first peoples of Canada.”

We decided on our exchange dates — from February 26 – March 7, 2018 – so us urbanites from Brampton could experience a real Canadian winter! We got lucky with the weather.  There was a cold snap, -40C in the NWT the week before we left.  When we in the NWT it was usually -15C to -25 C.

Before we left, some of our students and school librarian arranged a book drive and we carried up about three books each.

Like any small airport in the Caribbean, we had to walk across the tarmac to the airport.  That was a first for me in Canada.

We spent the day in Yellowknife visiting the museum and walking around. Learning how to make flint tools.

After a 45 minute flight across Great Slave Lake to Hay River, we were met by Nathalie and a few students at the airport. We were whisked to their school where a caribou stew and bannock awaited us.

The K’atl’odeeche Reserve, NWT, is about 3000 people and their school, Chief Sunrise, is approximately 40 students, K-12. Central Peel SS, about 1200 students.

For the 7 days we were in NWT, we slept and ate at the reserve school – all 40 of us.  It was a great bonding opportunity for the kids.  

Seven days of outside adventure… dogsledding , snowmobiling,  ice fishing, snow shoeing, and a trappers camp (an overnight camp to teach how to live off the land).  We would have seen north lights if it weren’t a full moon. 

Happy days for the students. New friendships.  Lots of laughter and tears by the time we had to leave.

Central Peel Secondary School welcomed 12 students and 3 chaperones from Hay River, NT for the second half of their exchange on May 21st, 2018.