Learning from the Firekeepers at David Balfour Park

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Geoff Daybutch from the Mississauga First Nation teaching our students.

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Students learning about the four sacred medicines.

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Thank you cards made by the students for Geoff and Darryl.

By Soteira Briginshaw, Lead Teacher

On Thursday, September 21st, students in the Grade 1-2 class went to visit Geoff Daybutch from the Mississauga First Nation and Darryl McCormick from Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, two men who have been keeping a sacred fire in David Balfour Park for the last 37 days. They, along with a group of Indigenous women outside the INAC office on St. Clair, are trying to draw attention to the ongoing youth suicide crisis in Indigenous communities across Canada and to call for better actions toward reconciliation from all levels of government. Grade 1-2 students have started learning about the assimilation efforts of residential schools in Canada and the lasting effects that it and many other efforts of colonization have had on the Indigenous people of Turtle Island.

After reading and discussing books such as Shi-shi-etko and Shin-chi's Canoe by Nicola I. Campbell and Stolen Words by Melanie Florence, the girls prepared questions to ask the firekeepers during their visit. Their questions included:

"How did they take their voices away at school?" —Kelsea, Grade 1
"How did they survive in the forest if they were hiding there?" —Milo, Grade 1
"Why did they force the kids to go to residential school?" —Ziyal, Grade 1
"When it was called Turtle Island, were there a lot of buildings there or were there less buildings?" —Maho, Grade 2

During our visit, Geoff taught the students about the four sacred medicines: tobacco, sage, cedar, and sweetgrass, and explained how each was used in ceremony. He graciously answered their questions about residential school and about their ongoing action in the park, and even sent each girl home with a bundle of cedar. We look forward to continuing our connection with Geoff and Darryl during visits to the ravine and we encourage other Linden community members to take a moment to connect with them as well.

For more information on Geoff and Darryl's efforts, check out these articles: