Residential schools showed us what happens when culture and identity are forcibly removed from a generation of children. The Wabano Centre, the Ottawa Community Foundation (OCF), and local schools are showing us what happens when we put it back ― when students are actively involved in hands-on and interactive learning from members of the Indigenous community.

The Indigenous Education Program, offered to Ottawa elementary and high school students, is a response to one of the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – that Indigenous-led and delivered curriculum help build student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.

The Program was first introduced to 535 local students in 2017 as part of a seven-month pilot. The initiative generated very positive feedback from both students and teachers who see it filling a gap in the current Indigenous curriculum.

Surrounded by colourful artwork and wall hangings, Indigenous elders or leaders deliver culturally-sensitive and accurate educational information to students who travel to the Wabano Centre. Students participate in hands-on and interactive activities such as traditional hoop dances, the creation of medicine pouches, tours of the residential school exhibit, drum teachings, talking circles, drumming and singing, and feather art.

Funding for the curriculum comes from one of the OCF’s donors. This support was key in seeding the idea, then helping to create, launch and deliver the program to classrooms across the city. Funds cover transportation costs to get the students to the Wabano Centre, as well as materials, supplies and compensation for Indigenous facilitators.

The Wabano Centre and the OCF hope the program becomes a mandated curriculum by school boards in Ottawa and potentially elsewhere in Ontario.

On Wednesday, April 17th, more than 50 students and accompanying teachers from St. Pius and Lester B Pearson high school participated in a number of related activities at the Wabano Centre.

CBC’s Robyn Miller travelled to Wabano Centre to see exactly what the local high school students are learning and got their reaction.

For more information about Truth and Reconciliation, please visit the TRC website: