Board Member Trip to Treaty 3
In May 2022, SchoolBOX’s Board of Directors, Advisory Board, and staff team traveled to northern Canada to visit the SchoolBOX library sites located in Treaty 3. Our trip kicked off with a team visit to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The museum is one of a kind, beautifully designed, it highlights the global human right’s struggles and successes. Our team was able to reflect and prepare our hearts for the trip ahead.
Gaagagekiizhik & Bimose High School Visit
SchoolBOX team with Kiizhik Educators and Staff outside the portable which will be transformed into a library!
The following day, our team drove from Winnipeg to Kenora to visit the Gaagagekiizhik and Bimose High School (Kiizhik School), where SchoolBOX’s current library project is underway. It was the first time for all of our Board members visiting the Kiizhik school. Principal Wendy McPherson warmly welcomed our team and gave us a full tour of the beautiful school. We were pleasantly surprised that the school was celebrating Spring Feast, an Anishinabemowen cultural celebration of the change of season. As we entered the gymnasium where the celebration was being held, we were given the incredible honor of being seated as special guests. We were blown away by the generosity and kindness of the staff, educators, elders, and students during the feast. We were each given the four sacred medicines, invited to participate in the pow wow dances, and then we feasted together. It was a significant moment for our Board and team members to interact with the students, staff, and educators, as we connected with Anishinabemowen culture.
Students and Staff drum together during Spring Feast
Then, for the first time, our board was able to visit the current Library Project site, the Gikendaaso anwebi waakaa’igan Library, the “Place of Learning and Rest”. This will be the library for all children and youth at the Kiizhik School. This project has been a work in progress over the last year, and it was very significant that our team be there for the ribbon cutting ceremony. We also put them to work, and had them unload and build the first pieces of furniture that will help transform the space. It was a great team building experience! And for the very first time, Principal Wendy McPherson, Shawn Bertrand from First Nations Industrial Systems, SchoolBOX Executive Director Sarah Kerr, SchoolBOX North Director Terri Meekis were together to celebrate how far this project has come! It was a true milestone!
Cecelia Jeffrey Residential School Memorial Visit
After our time at the Kiizhik school, our team visited the Cecelia Jeffrey Residential school memorial site. This memorial, where the Cecelia Jeffrey Residential school once stood, is only a 2 minute drive from the Kiizhik School. The dichotomy of having just visited Kiizhik, a vibrant thriving First Nations community that empowers their children and youth Anishinaabemowin identity, and then standing on the very ground where Cecelia Jeffrey once stood, reflecting on the atrocities that took place there, was significant and deeply moving. We took time to remember the lives that were lost at Cecelia Jeffrey, honored the ones that survived, and then reflected inwardly on how we as Indigenous and non-Indigenous can answer the call to true allyship and reconciliation.
Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation Library Visit
The next day we traveled 30 minutes north of Kenora to the community of Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation, to have our team begin the cataloging process of the children and youth libraries. These two libraries were implemented in 2019, but the full organization of the books had yet to be completed. This was a great hands-on experience for our team. For many of them, it was their first time meeting Bernice Major, NAN community member who has been responsible for the running and upkeep of the libraries. Bernice is incredible, and has given so much of her time and energy to get these libraries up and running in her community. She is an involved council member and community advocate, we are so thankful for her partnership and her hard work over the years!
Above: Various photos of the SB team in Niisaachewan
The trip was a meaningful time of listening and learning together. As our team reflected on the trip, they felt inspired and filled with hope. Our responsibility at SchoolBOX is to ensure that we respect and honour each of our partnerships and align with their community goals. We are better together when we listen, learn and respect one another. Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible and to our board members for your openness of heart and your generosity of time and energy! Thank you to our incredible hosts Wendy, Shawn, Terri, Ramona, and Bernice, without you, this partnership would not be possible! Together we are working together to make education possible!