This year is an especially difficult year to say we are “celebrating” Canada’s National Indigenous People’s Day. But it is a day that we believe is more important than ever to mark. The recent discoveries have reminded us of our beloved country’s difficult history. It has also reminded us that we need to do more. Today, we would like to share with you what we are doing at Atelier Kids. Particularly in our Reggio-inspired setting, it is important for children to have a meaningful connection to their greater community, to the place they live and go to school, and to be given the opportunity to take their place as our most important citizens with open hearts and curious minds.

We have started our journey. We know we are settlers, that we are not the first people to live on these beautiful lands on the edge of High Park. For thousands of years, indigenous peoples have been here and this is their traditional land. Consider the names in our neighbourhood: Indian Grove, Indian Road, Indian Trail…

We’re consulting with indigenous allies like Hopi Martin from Edge of the Bush, who are helping us to find an age-appropriate way to create a Land Acknowledgement.

Along the way we are asking: should it always be the same? Should it change? How can it be meaningful for our very young students?

A next step has been to introduce elements of programming that help our students to become more familiar with both indigenous history, but also values. Several of our staff have begun attending webinars designed to do just this. We have been reading books by Canadian indigenous authors with all age groups, to learn traditional tales, vocabulary, values and artistic styles. The Toronto Public Library has been incredibly helpful in sourcing books for our age groups, as well our local stores and online resources, too.

We recently connected with Keira Day of the High Park Nature Centre, who taught our preschool classes the history, tale and practical reasoning behind the Three Sisters planting. By planting corn for its strength and height, alongside beans that naturally bring nitrogen to the earth while growing and climbing up the corn, and squash that protects itself and its neighbours with its sprawling growth and prickly stems, the three sisters help and support each other.

Today we joined a virtual celebration of Summer Solstice and National Indigenous People’s Day by projecting the event in our outdoor atelier, allowing the children to join in the dancing and drumming throughout the morning. We experimented with learning some games traditionally used to develop strength, endurance and agility; another way for non-Indigenous children to learn more about the culture of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people.

We are learning to move from being allies, settlers who listen and learn, to being accomplices, settlers who listen, learn and advocate for change. We do not profess to be experts, to know the path we will follow, but we intend to keep learning, to keep connecting, and to keep trying to educate our children for a better, more just, future.

~ the Atelier Kids Team