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Montreal students honor the memory of Indigenous children by hand-sewing moccasins

By Vanessa Lee and Rhythm Sachdeva

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Montreal (CTV Network) — Students at Montreal’s Beurling Academy are on a creative mission to honor the memory of Indigenous children, one moccasin at a time. Students learn how, since the late 19th century, 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were taken from their families and forced to attend residential schools. To learn from and honor Indigenous children, students learned to hand sew small moccasins in a community initiative called Project 215. The workshop was led by Rebekah Elkerton. She is Anishinaabe from the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation near London, Ontario. Her grandparents attended boarding schools and her father was a victim of the Sixties Scoop. Rebecca Elkerton says her grandparents rarely spoke about the pain of their past. “The way they raised their children, it was very clear that they had gone through their own trauma and their own abuse,” she said. Leading the workshops is an opportunity for Elkerton to “heal together through creativity and establish common ground.” “I think it’s important to share our traditions with non-Aboriginal people. And most of all, it’s about starting a conversation,” she said. Grade 8 student Tashaiya Mcrae-Evans said she felt disgusted when she learned about what had happened to Indigenous children in residential schools. “They’re all human and we mistreated them, just because they’re from a different culture,” she said. Jessica Hernandez, who operates a beading business in Kahnawake, a First Nations reserve southwest of Montreal, was the inspiration for this activity. Once the moccasins are finished, they will be displayed at school.

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