A group of students dubbed “Cheetahs for Change” at Charles P. Allen High School in Bedford, NS, engaged in difficult but meaningful conversations about Truth and Reconciliation on Wednesday.
It’s a topic that many of them have only heard about in recent years.
Nathan Chao says he was encouraged to be around like-minded people who are passionate about creating change.
“During the conversations we’ve had, I changed my mind a couple of times. I changed my point of view because I learned, ‘Oh, I didn’t know this. This person is bringing new light to this subject that I did not know. ‘ I went to work to understand it better than before, ”he said.
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The club had invited members of its student council to attend a small ceremony organized outside to commemorate the lives lost in the residential school system. The event was held on the eve of the first National Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada.
“Our message today was just to spread a little awareness and hopefully make everyone feel a little more comfortable talking about the situation,” said 12th grader Cameron Brown.
The students gathered around a weeping willow tree, which they had planted earlier in the year to pay their respects, and were silent for a moment.
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Members of the group said that the tree represents Mother Earth crying for her lost children.
“I’m only in 12th grade. I can’t do much. I am not a deputy. I’m not a politician. I can’t get your land back. But what I can do is make their voices heard, so this is my best way to give back to them, ”said Loulou Chater.
The tree was surrounded by painted rocks, 139 in all, each representing one of Canada’s residential schools.
Each stone has the name of the school and the number of children who disappeared. Some of the rocks are painted with red dresses to honor the disappeared and murdered indigenous women. Others were painted with orange T-shirts.
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“Each of them represents a life, a life of someone potentially my age, the age of my younger brother, being essentially tortured to death by these institutions,” said Chao.
Group member Sophie Doucette said it is empowering for younger people to have a voice and implement changes for the future.
“It is not for me or for non-indigenous people to decide what happens. We have to listen to what they think we should do. “She said.
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