Our second-year Journalism – Mass Media students from Durham College have tackled a special project – one we are calling ’24 Hours DC/UOIT’.
On Feb. 5, 2019, the students visited particular areas of the Durham College and UOIT campuses, including north Oshawa, downtown Oshawa and Whitby.
They talked to people, snapped pictures and gathered stories from students, faculty and staff about their campus experiences. This is one in a series of 16 stories from that day.
Elder Carolyn King regularly visits schools Ontario-wide to deliver a message to students of the importance of Indigenous history. She spent her time in downtown Oshawa Feb. 5, with a first-year class of 58 future elementary educators at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT).
King came to promote the Moccasin Identifier Project, an education and awareness initiative she created for the school system.
The Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation Elder says it is a “simple little program to educate all levels of school.”
The concept is straightforward – education followed by an activity.
Her goal is to introduce her program to schools across the province. Ideally, during the month of June, students would learn about the traditional land and territories, King says.
Schools would receive a kit filled with information and educational tools, including stencils of four unique sets of moccasins, which represent four First Nations – Cree, Nishnawbe, Huron-Wendat and Iroquois.
Then students would mark their school’s territory by stencilling the moccasin, using washable paint, on school grounds, either outside on the pavement or on a wall.
The symbol is a visual reminder of the traditional territory of Indigenous peoples, King says, who views the activity as both a conversation starter and a step in the right direction.
The Elder’s hope is this education happens annually, so students “will forever know whose land they are on.”
It’s a regular reminder of the traditional territory of Indigenous peoples, a concept King says is fragmented in the school system.
King sees opportunity in reaching future educators because they will teach new generations. Her hope moving forward is children will turn into better informed adults.
Kimberley Briggs, a current UOIT student and future primary/junior teacher, says she was moved by the Elder’s class visit.
“It is important for us as new teachers to learn the real history of Canada and what better way than to hear it right from the mouths of those who lived it,” Briggs says.
Following the presentation, Briggs says she feels “better armed to incorporate Indigenous perspectives into my classroom.”
The Elder’s visit is one of many initiatives organized by the staff at UOIT’s Indigenous Education and Cultural Services.
Indigenous programming specialist, Carol Ducharme, says the Moccasin Identifier Project is important on many levels.
She says it not only encourages questions and engages dialogue, it also strengthens relationships for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“It is the responsibility for all Canadians to understand the history and impact of colonialism,” Ducharme says, “you cannot move towards any direction unless you first know where you are coming from.”
For her part, King has served her First Nation community for 35 years but her work continues by sharing her message – know the land where you stand.
“I encourage that all people check to see whose first nation is in their land, what treaty land you are on or whose traditional territory you’re on,” says King.
The Elder was speaking at UOIT’s Faculty of Education, 11 Simcoe St. N. in Oshawa. UOIT sits on the lands of the people of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nations, within the traditional territory of the Mississauga and in the territory covered by the Williams Treaties.