As part of its commitment to furthering reconciliation and intercultural understanding and respect, SelfDesign Learning Community became a member of the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack foundation’s Legacy School network in 2019, joining a community of more than 1,600 legacy schools across Canada and linking to funding, educational resources and opportunities that advance reconciliation.

The Legacy School network is a national initiative that engages, empowers and connects students and educators to further reconciliation through awareness, education, connection, and action.

“The Downie–Wenjack foundation has a goal of ‘let’s understand the truth, and let’s take steps towards young people having the opportunity to take part in some immersive experiences nationwide,’” says SelfDesign Indigenous Education Facilitator Patricia Collins. “It’s really cool to be part of that. They bring some neat things to us, and have a lot of different, very inspirational opportunities that our learners can participate in. And it’s nationwide, so there is a real sense of wider connection and community.”

The Downie & Wenjack Fund and the Legacy Schools program were formed as part of the legacy established by Canadian musician, the late Gordon Downie, of the rock band, The Tragically Hip. Downie was inspired by the story of Chanie Wenjack, a member of the Marten Falls First Nation, in northwestern Ontario, who ran away from residential school when he was 12 years old and died on his way home. The foundation aims to build cultural understanding and create a path toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

It encourages all Canadian schools to join the Legacy School network, and provides learning resources,  toolkits, and program development to network schools to help ensure that the interests, rights, and perspectives of Indigenous peoples are recognized and implemented in schools and communities across Canada.

“The ideas and the opportunities that they bring forwards are very unique,” Patricia says. “They have things that are amazing for us to join.” For example, she says that one Legacy School activity some SelfDesign learners took part in in 2019 was to design a T-shirt for Orange Shirt Day, the annual September 30 event that promotes awareness of the ongoing effects of the Canadadian residential school system. Other Legacy School opportunities include guest speakers, Indigenous artists-in-schools programs, and even visits by musicians to understand, promote and encourage reconciliation.

“Some opportunities are designed specifically for our Indigenous learners,” Patricia says. “They have a pretty strong network among Indigenous peoples in Canada, so it’s great for our Indigenous learners, families and educators to have that additional involvement and support.”

The affiliation with the foundation and the Legacy Schools network ties in well with SelfDesign’s own commitment to furthering reconciliation and building capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect throughout our organization. SelfDesign’s own vision regarding reconciliation is for the learning community “to be in a space where Indigenous education and mainstream education are integrated and woven together so seamlessly that you can’t separate the two,” Patricia says.

“Wouldn’t it be fantastic to reach the point when a young person looks at a challenge and automatically considers the Turtle Island Indigenous perspective as well as the national or international perspective, and has access to fully integrated resources to help them learn more?”

Learn more about the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund.

To learn more about what SelfDesign is doing to further reconciliation and build capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect, read these posts on our Blog: