June 20, 2019

Reconciliation through the arts

Eyes Open, Eyes High: Inspiring Visions in the Midst of Difficult Teaching and Learning

More than 250 people packed the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning Forum on Saturday, December 3 for Open, Eyes High: Inspiring Visions in the Midst of Difficult Teaching and Learning. This arts-themed event brought together a diverse audience of educators, youth, parents, family, friends, and community members from surrounding First Nations. With its focus on reconciliation and inspiring learning through the arts, this event made a powerful impact on those who attended.

Organizers Yvonne Poitras Pratt, Aubrey Hanson, and Andrea Mann were honoured to welcome Kainai Elder Randy Bottle, who opened the event with inspiring words acknowledging the role of youth in this work. Director of Indigenous Education Initiatives Jacqueline Ottmann and Vice-Dean Sharon Friesen from the Werklund School of Education, along with Director Nancy Chick from the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning also provided opening words. The program featured the work of more than 60 preservice teachers engaged in reflections on learning in the Bachelor of Education mandatory course on Indigenous perspectives in education. This compilation was followed by a powerful performance entitled New Blood, performed by youth from Strathmore High School and Rosebud School of the Arts and directed by Deanne Bertsch. The event closed with a discussion panel of youth performers and future teachers.

In conversation after the event, audience members reported feeling very moved by the New Blood performance.  One attendee shared, “Nothing can erase the dreadful history that we all are a part of, but through events such as this, steps are taken to move us all closer to remembrance and healing.” Another spoke of the importance for all Canadians to engage in this type of learning. The power of the arts to inspire was another common theme.

Participants engaged in lively discussions after the show, ranging from personal responses to the performances, to the meaning of reconciliation, to the roles that each individual might play in building better relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.