Jun 05, 2019

Loughborough Public School (LPS) grade 3 Anishnaabe student Nescia Giangrosso travelled to Winnipeg, early last month, to be part of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Imagine a Canada – Youth Leading Reconciliation workshop and national celebration, which took place at the Turtle Lodge International Centre for Indigenous Education and Wellness in the Sagkeeng First Nation.

Imagine a Canada also includes an art project. Youth across Canada “invited to submit an art piece about the way they envision Canada through the lens of reconciliation”.

Nescia was invited to participate in the workshop because the mixed-media art piece that LPS had created was chosen as the Ontario entry for 2019. 11 or the 16 classes at the school (aprox. 70% of the students) from grades Kindergarten to grade 8 participated in creation of the art piece.

The 13ft long piece, which hangs in the school, is called “From What Dish Do You Want to Feed Your Grandchildren From?” was inspired by the treaty between the Anishinaabe, Mississauga and Haudenosaunee First Nations in 1701 that bound them to share the territory and protect the land along the Lake Ontario basin. The treaty carries a message of peace and unity, and it is its environmental underpinnings that make it so valuable in a modern context. This was the inspiration for the art piece.

But the idea of one bowl (or one dish) one spoon is an old one in North America, signifying an agreement to share hunting grounds between neighbouring peoples. It refers to sharing the harvest as well as ensuring that there is plenty left for future generations to share.

The idea for the piece came from a walk that Nescia took with her mother and her little brother along a creek bed that runs through their backyard. When their mother Janza knelt down and thanked the creek, it sparked the idea that led to the art piece that the Loughborough students ultimately made, and idea about reconciliation with the natural world.

When Anishnaabe elder Deb St. Amant and Anishnaabe parent Janza Giangrosso shared the teachings about One Dish, One Spoon, and the wampum that it has inspired (see photo). They included some text from John Burrows about the wampum.

“We all eat out of the dish, all of us that share this territory, with only one spoon. That means that we share the responsibility of ensuring that the dish is never empty; which includes taking care of the land and the creatures we share it with. Importantly there are no knives at the table, representing that we must keep the peace,” he wrote.

The classes decided to "What do you want your grandchildren to eat?" - detail look at what they ate and where it came from, and ask the question, ‘what dish do you want to feed your grandchildren from?’.

They had the idea for the art piece. On one side it would be wrappers and garbage that litters the community, it would have beaver pelts in the middle, and birch bark on the other side.

They cut out squares of birch for one side, and cut out wrappers and other found materials for the other side. Then they sewed them together to make a very large installation. They each reflected on the piece and wrote their thoughts in many of the squares.

Each side of the piece represents an option for the future.

In her presentation in Winnipeg, Nescia said “Reconciliation is more than just reconciling our relationships with each other. We need to reconcile our relationship with nimamaki (mother earth). She has loved and supported us for generations. We learned about the honourable way to harvest gifts from the earth. This awareness can significantly impact my ecological footprint, as it is our grandchildren that will carry the burdens of the decisions we make today.”

The submission from LPS was an effort of the entire school community. Students from upper year grades helped with the cutting and sewing process, and the school’s ongoing food initiative dovetailed with the project.

Janza Giangrosso, who was also with the project from start to finish, said that a number of passionate teachers in the school and their students made the project what it was.

“We really warmed the ground and as a community, got a taste of what Indigenous education can look like and what is possible when members of the Indigenous community are invited into the classroom to share teachings alongside educators”.

The submission that accompanied a photo of the piece, which was much too large to transport to Manitoba, concluded with the following statement on behalf of the school: To imagine means “to form a mental image or concept of”. This was more than just a dreamy conceptualization of reconciling this country. This work created a safe space within our school community, where multiple perspective, narratives and world views came together to engage in a real, visceral conversation about sustainability and the future lives of our grandchildren.”

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