Plympton-Wyoming students are learning the stories of children in residential schools

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Heather Wright Photo Students from Plympton-Wyoming Public School were learning about residential schools during Treaty Week. The students learned the story of Chanie Wenjack who ran away from the Kenora residential school he was forced to attend.

Heather Wright/The Independent

Small, solemn hands reach up to touch Chanie Wenjack.

The children from Plympton-Wyoming Public School have just learned the little boy’s story. Chanie was one of thousands of Indigenous kids who were taken from parents to go to residential schools across Canada. Chanie, who was just six, ran away and died while trying to walk 600 kilometres home.

Maggie Lynch is one of the teachers telling the young students the nation’s dark history during Treaty Week.

“There are some hard conversations, but they’ve been very enlightening, and the children have been very engaged and open and interested. So it’s been quite powerful… the older children are even asking some hard questions about what was really going on. And we’re answering it truthfully. And I think it’s just improving their empathy.

“The little ones, they can imagine, they wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of Chanie Wenjack.”

After learning the story of Chanie, the entire school walked through Wyoming Nov. 4, then tied orange ribbons at a tree in Canton Park.

Lynch is keen to teach about residential schools saying even as a university history major, she learned nothing about the horrors of the schools and our government’s role in them.

“We never talked about this. And I know that’s similar with some other teachers as well. So we are learning as we’re going and we’re sharing our knowledge and our understanding and our compassion with the younger ones. So hopefully, it’ll open up their hearts and understanding.”

Lynch says learning and sharing the stories now will make Canada stronger in the end. “We should know better if you want to do better.”