Author David Alexander Robertson speaks to UGDSB about reconciliation and healing through storytelling
May 16, 2018
GUELPH, Ontario – Staff and students in the Upper Grand District School Board learned about the power of healing through storytelling with author David Alexander Robertson this week.
Robertson is an award-winning novelist from Winnipeg, Cree Norway House First Nation. He is the winner of many awards including the Governor General’s Literary Award for his book When We Were Alone.
On May 14 and 15, Robertson visited the UGDSB to speak about Indigenous history, culture and contemporary issues through literature and present at Indigenous Education Professional Development sessions for UGDSB staff.
Over the course of two days, he spoke to teachers and teacher-librarians in preparation of the new Indigenous curriculum for social studies. He talked about a range of issues including reconciliation, racism and his experience growing up in a white community.
During his time in the Upper Grand, Robertson also visited two classes. On Monday, he was at Rickson Ridge Public School in Heather Walker’s class, and on Tuesday he was in Jennifer Bailey’s class at Island Lake Public School. Both classes had been reading his book and preparing presentations and questions for Robertson. The two schools are also part of a UGDSB Indigenous-focused collaborative inquiry.
Also on Monday May 14, the UGDSB partnered with The Bookshelf in Guelph for an evening presentation with Robertson, open to all UGDSB staff members.
At the Bookshelf event, Robertson read from his books and spoke about reconciliation and healing through storytelling.
Eliina, a grade 4 student from John Black Public School, presented Robertson with a painting she did, inspired by When We Were Alone. The book is a story about a young girl who learns about residential schools through conversations with her grandmother.
Eliina said she wanted to use the sun setting and the moon rising to connect to the book, as a sign of hope. She used the colours of yellow and blue, coming together to make green grass. She was careful not to smudge the black lines and make grey, as when reading Robertson’s book, she felt that residential schools tried to make everyone grey by making them the same, instead of sharing each person’s beautiful culture.
Robertson later tweeted, “This was the highlight of my week away from home. What an amazing kid. This is why I write.”
One of the messages that Robertson left with UGDSB staff was that educators can provide the space and resources to have meaningful conversations with students about the truth. Kids are ready for it – and we all have a role to play in the process of reconciliation.