Across the Boards – Fall 2019 Feature

Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

OCDSB: Creating Space for Indigenous Students

By Darcy Knoll, Ottawa-Carleton DSB

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ottawa-Carleton DSB

The Ottawa-Carleton DSB (OCDSB) is committed to building a culture of caring. To do so, we will advance equity and a sense of belonging to promote a safe and caring school community.

We acknowledge that our District is on unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin Territory. We are thankful to the Algonquin Nation for hosting us and recognize their enduring presence on this land.

The OCDSB is committed to the Calls to Action recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We work with Indigenous students, parents and partners to implement and monitor the delivery of Indigenous education in an inclusive and equitable manner. This can come in many forms from how we include Indigenous perspectives in our studies to having more First Nations, Métis and Inuit books in the classroom and on library shelves.

Broadening Indigenous education also means providing opportunities to come together. At the OCDSB, Indigenous lodges provide a space for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students to learn and connect. Community partners also use these spaces to provide cultural teachings.

According to Josh Lewis, Indigenous Student Support Coordinator at the OCDSB:

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ottawa-Carleton DSB

“Students really enjoy these spaces because they are safe and connect them with culture and community. Community partners often drop into schools to offer cultural support. For example, members of the Inuuqatigiit Centre for Inuit Children, Youth and Families drop by weekly at one school to offer art and language workshops and traditional foods. A safe space allows for students to feel more comfortable while taking part.

These spaces allow for students to smudge. For some students, smudging is something that helps students rid themselves of anxiety and negative emotions. Smudging can be used to support holistic health.

These spaces are quiet. Some students come from communities that are smaller than their school population so these spaces give them a space to feel more comfortable. They also allow students to meet other Indigenous students who attend their school.

Overall, these spaces are safe, comfortable, familiar, quiet and allow for students to feel like they matter in their schools.”

The OCDSB currently has centres in three high schools: Gloucester High School, Ottawa Technical Secondary School and Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School. The Board will continue to offer new opportunities for Indigenous education and cultural learning across our entire school community.

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