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Blog: Thursday, October 5th, 2017

If Not Us, Then Who?

By Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

I had the pleasure of attending our Orange Shirt Day ceremony last week at Mill Lake. It was attended by hundreds of students, teachers, support staff and community members.  We were lead in procession through the park by a group of drummers (Chris Thomas, Chris Silver, Terrington Prest, Brian Point, Dominic Greene, Victor Harry and Tommy Ritchie). Their voices resounded through the park as we walked, and brought more onlookers to observe the sea of orange solemnly moving in procession. It drizzled, but the rain did not dampen our spirits; one of the witnesses, former Lieutenant Governor Stephen Point later said it was perhaps fitting that it was raining because rain has a way of washing the ground, creating a new path and allowing things to grow.

The procession made it to Kariton Art Gallery for a house post raising ceremony, where a group of students from Margaret Stenersen and ASIA North Poplar sang a beautiful song, led by cultural support worker Wenonah Justin. Students honoured Elder Barb Silver from Sumas First Nation by providing her with the hummingbird notes that they wrote for the community. Carver Raphael Silver shared the meanings behind the hummingbird cedar post he created. It is said the hummingbird comes into our path and can reach in, touch our hearts and uplift us. The hummingbird can take away sadness or anger and replace it with happier feelings. Witness Chief Dalton Silver spoke eloquently about the significance of the day and its importance for First Nations people in general and our community in particular. The post was blessed by Dr. Gwen Point, Chancellor of UFV and Elder Tess Ned from Sumas First Nation. I was honoured to be there and to witness this ceremony.

For those who do not know, Orange Shirt day was created out of Phyllis Webstad’s experiences. Phyllis was forced into a residential school when she was just six years old, and was not permitted to wear her favourite orange shirt. She was stripped of her clothing and was forbidden to speak her language. It was hoped Orange Shirt Day would inspire a movement across the country, where we all develop a deeper understanding of the impact of residential schools and strengthen education for reconciliation. 

I would like to extend a huge thank you to the many educators and students that joined our walk, and to the Mamele'awt Community Aboriginal Centre staff for their dedication. What touched most were the students. I could not help but feel hopeful that this generation of students will grow up with a deeper appreciation for all the cultures that make Canada such an amazing nation. They will be the leaders of tomorrow, and we do them a great service when we teach them about the full and rich history of this nation, which reaches well beyond the last 150 years. Our work is not done in this respect, but I think we may now know one of the secrets to building a stronger, more just, more cohesive and peaceful society.

By Kevin Godden
Kevin Godden
Kevin Godden

By Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.