I enjoyed the experience of exploring and reflecting on the Witness Blanket exhibit. This national monument is a spectacular beauty to look at and comb through. I was struck by the different artifacts that were displayed and how intriguing it is that each of these items has a special story to someone. Looking at items such as the skate and door struck me hard as I didn’t realize how such everyday items could hold such meaning for different people. To me, this shows the lasting impact that the residential schools have had on people from all over Canada.
One item that really resonates with me is the braid of hair. When I first looked at this artifact I got shivers because that was once attached to someone’s head. I was over that fact quickly, but I kept wondering if the person this hair belonged to is still alive or if they have passed away. If they are still alive, I wonder if they were the ones who donated this artifact or if it was found by someone else. This braid made me reflect on what it would be like to be taken from your home and sent to a school where you had to completely change who you are and what you believe in. This idea horrifies me and due to that fear, I try to out myself in the shoes of those who attended in order to be educated, so a tragedy like this does not happen again. This braid also makes me think about my own hair. I have been growing my hair out for years, only due to preference, but nonetheless I would be horrified if someone one day cut my hair against my will because I did not fit into the image that they wanted portrayed in society or at an institution. Referring to institutions brings up thoughts about why this was viewed as necessary for hair to be cut off. I realize that at this point in time, the societal norms at this time was that these boys and girls needed to dress and look a certain way.
The braid further makes me reflect on the way that the residential schools were set up. The curriculum of these schools were very strict and authoritarian. They were based on the idea that ‘Indian’ lifestyles should be removed and all First Nations people should assimilate into white settler ideologies and ways of life because it was viewed as ‘civilized’. As a future teacher, I want to be able to convey to my students that there is no ‘civilized’ way to live as the work civilized is extremely situation based. If you see someone who does not act like you, you may view them as uncivilized compared to your views where they might view you in the same manner. In relations of curriculum as place, the residential schools were a place of direct and strict learning that only followed one worldview. In modern schools we try to incorporate everyone’s worldview as we do not want to constrict students to one world view. To me, this is important because there is no perfect worldview and so we should foster and encourage a variety of worldviews to evolve. As I continue on the journey to becoming an educator, I hope to have more experiences such as the Witness Blanket that open my eyes to a wide range of social issues and history that needs to be addressed taught to future generations.
Until next time!