Across the Boards – Fall 2019 Feature

Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board

Truth and Reconciliation Performance by Prince Edward Collegiate Institute Students

By Kerry Donnell, Hastings and Prince Edward DSB

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Matthew Sheahan, Hastings and Prince Edward DSB

Learning about truth and reconciliation was a compelling experience for students at Prince Edward Collegiate Institute (PECI) in Picton. Their learning involved researching the topic then writing and performing a play called “A Call to Action: A Collective Creation about Truth and Reconciliation.”

“A Call to Action” was a collective creation focusing on truth and reconciliation from a non-Indigenous perspective. Fourteen students and teacher Matthew Sheahan co-created responses to issues, articles and history, then created choral speaking and movement pieces to highlight their feelings and newfound knowledge. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Matthew Sheahan, Hastings and Prince Edward DSB

“Mr. Sheahan came up with the general concept, but it went differently to what he was expecting,” said student Kennedy Babutac.

“The play was written by the students,” said Sheahan. “I provided them with news clippings in relation and they took the material from there,” he said. “The audience gets a chance to talk to the kids afterwards to engage in conversation, which is important. That’s the point. It’s about building those bridges.”

The original performance was 55 minutes long and was presented at PECI, local elementary schools, as well as at the Core Arts Centre in Belleville. Each performance was followed by a Q&A period between the creative team and the audience. The students also performed a condensed version at Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre at the Children and Youth in Performance Conference, as well as at the June meeting of the Hastings and Prince Edward DSB meeting. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Matthew Sheahan, Hastings and Prince Edward DSB

“I did know a bit about what happened before about residential schools and everything, but coming into this collective creation, it has really taught me more than I have learned,” said Babutac. “I think we all need to listen to what we have to say.”

The performers conclude reconciliation is not an easy path, but one that requires hard work, questions, compromises and action. “We ask you to answer this call to action.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Matthew Sheahan, Hastings and Prince Edward DSB

Words in the vignettes speak to a residential school survivor:

  • “I don’t really know much about what happened behind the closed door of your residential school. I want to know everything because while most history is bad history, it makes us who we are today. What did you have to go through and why is it something so terrible, but something me and my classmates will never have to experience? I bet you want to know to, but I wonder, do you wish for revenge or do you want nobody to ever feel that way again? I want to know.”
  • “Dear Canada: Don’t you realize it’s not just the past? No we don’t currently have residential schools, but the legacy is still there. Is the legacy a good one? These people are still facing injustice. What we see as a problem is normal for some. We complain that our Internet isn’t working or our favourite show isn’t on, but there are people in our own country who do not even have access to water and yet we do nothing about it. So what now, how do we change this? Do we help them or do we just keep on believing that this isn’t an issue? How can we as a country help better the situation? Sincerely, The People.”
  • “Dear Intolerance: You are so hard for me to understand. How can you fill people’s minds and turn them against each other? All throughout history and still to this day you have killed people and put them through terrible things. Perhaps if we could understand you, we could stop you, but we can’t. All we can do is remember the results of living in the past and by eliminating people’s lives, the past will not be repeated. As more of our people open their eyes to the terrible reality of the world today, we realize we can and we must do better. Sincerely, humanity.”
  • “Today, our entire culture and existence is based upon the suffering of others. Today, we pride ourselves in who has more, who can take more. Today, we still can’t fully understand what happened and we can’t change it, but we can raise questions without answers, rather than answers that can’t be questioned.”
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