By Thandiwe Konguavi
Staff Writer

Taigen Webster was taken aback when she heard about Canada’s history of residential schools,

“I was really surprised,” said Taigen, a student at Wye Elementary School in Sherwood Park.

So was her mother Carrie. “I know that when I was in school I didn’t learn about that,” said Carrie, adding she learned a lot when her Grade 6 daughter came home to tell her about it.

“There was lots of conversations in the household and knowledge transfer from student to parent with regards to reconciliation.”

Taigen was recognized for her painting titled “We Are All The Same” at the Exploring Reconciliation Youth Showcase on March 29 at the ACT Aquatic and Recreation Centre. The painting is one of 42 multimedia expressions by students from kindergarten to Grade 12, on their vision for a reconciled Canada.

The event took place during Edmonton’s reconciliation week, which runs from May 28 to June 3, honouring two years since the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) and its 94 calls to action.

Event facilitator Charlene Bearhead, who worked as a coordinator for the TRC, said young people will lead the reconciliation process with the Aboriginal community.

“These children know more about First Nations, Metis and Inuit people, culture, history, science, language and knowledge,” Bearhead said. “They get it because they’re living in this critically important time of truth and reconciliation. These are the ones that have the voice and share the messages.”

Nathan McIlwraith, a student at the Indigenous Leadership Academy at Centre High School, said some adults might still have a closed mind about anything to do with the Aboriginal community.

“The youth can teach the adults,” he said. “I feel like everyone should go to a sweat or go to a medicine healing at least once in their life because they’re going to witness something unexplainable,” said McIlwraith.

Young people at the Exploring Reconciliation Youth Showcase discussed collaborating with First Nations schools; equal access to resources such as water and healthy food; and incorporating Aboriginal culture and perspectives in the education system and society.

“They have a really good idea of what needs to happen in order for us to be a fully united, fair, kind country,” said Danielle Powder, an indigenous relations advisor for the Edmonton Public Library. “They are our future and they need to be guiding reconciliation.”

The artwork from the reconciliation showcase will be on display at EPL’s Abbottsfield – Penny McKee branch, Woodcroft, and Highlands branches this week and through June, which is National Aboriginal History Month.