– Files from the Comox Valley School District

COMOX, B.C. – A Highland Secondary teacher and her students are directing the spotlight on truth and reconciliation.

The Comox school hosted a reconciliation awareness ceremony this morning in its multipurpose room.

Art teacher Charlotte Hood-Tanner organized the event, which included an art project created by her students on silkscreen from the jeqaje (hope) prints.

Hood-Tanner said the ceremony celebrates awareness about truth and reconciliation and the commission’s 94 calls to action.

She noted that part of the ceremony involved her students’ artwork.

“My students last semester created some art through silk-screening that was designed to promote awareness around truth and reconciliation,” Hood-Tanner explained. “And with National Indigenous Day coming up on Friday, we felt that today would be a perfect time to create awareness around that and offer the art back to the community.”

Highland has a strong Aboriginal student council.

“They are many in number and have a huge impact on our school,” Hood-Tanner said.

K’omoks First Nation Chief Nicole Rempel opened the ceremony by telling audience members that “if you don’t know what a residential school is, learn. Ask.”

“This is an opportunity to learn and work together in a good way, the way it should have been done,” Rempel said.

“We keep our information in our memories, and have done so for generations,” she added. “What you think is important and what you do and what you witness here today is important.”

The students’ artwork, titled Hope and Love Beyond the 94: A Journey of Reconciliation, was showcased at the event.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission travelled the country coast to coast listening to survivors and communities impacted by the Residential School system.  It wrapped up in 2015.

From that journey came 94 calls to action, documented to be used to educate, forge relationships, connect with the past, and foster reconciliation and healing.

A district release says the “journey” for Highland’s Grade 11/12 art class began at the start of the school year and “has resulted in a stunning silkscreened composition of five original Indigenous design symbols.”

With help from Tami Jerome, Hood-Tanner learned of two potential grants, the first through Comox Valley School’s Indigenous Education and the second through ArtStarts in Schools.

Jerome assisted in the grant application and together they were able to secure the funds needed to create a silkscreen lab.

ArtStarts also provides grant funding for an Artist-in-Residence to work within a school.

Hood-Tanner pursued Andy MacDougall, an experienced local printmaker with the Wachiay Friendship Centre, to guide students through the silkscreen process of transforming their compositions onto posters.