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Blog: Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

Thà:yt te Xàxlh and the MMIWG Inquiry

This year, Abbotsford Senior Secondary has started an Indigenous Student Leadership course. We began the year by having the students collaborate with Elder Beatrice Silver (a member of Sumas First Nation) to create a vision and identity for the course. We chose the theme and name of Thà:yt te Xàxlh, meaning “Make a Path” in Halq'emeylem. We felt connected to Thà:yt te Xàxlh because the students are determined to help break down barriers for other Indigenous youth to create positive change in their school and in the greater community. The students work collaboratively to foster leadership skills by organizing school events, infusing Indigenous culture into the school, and developing spirit, heart, body, and mind holistically. One of the most important aspects of the course is fostering a sense of community. Every class begins with students leading a check-in and acknowledging the land which has helped us to build a family within the class.

Thà:yt te Xàxlh is student-focused. The students choose the direction of their learning by deciding upon a current issue or concern that Indigenous people in Canada are facing, which then becomes their inquiry for the year. Through talking circles, reflections, and in-depth classroom discussions, students came up with a detailed list of concerns. The youth became passionate and ready to immerse themselves in learning more about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). The Indigenous students feel driven by frustration that thousands of Indigenous women have gone missing with little publicity. This led to the students’ current inquiry focus: investigating the red dress awareness campaign.

The red dress awareness campaign began with students determining what they needed to know about MMIWG and the campaign. Next, the students separated themselves into separate groups based on their skills and interests. The students are currently working very hard cutting out 4,000 red cardstock dresses to hang in the Abbotsford Senior Secondary rotunda on the National Day of Awareness for MMIW on May 5th. The students decided to cut 4,000 red dresses, as there are approximately that many missing or murdered Indigenous women across Canada. In addition to this awareness project, the students are hoping to raise money for preventative measures. They came up with the idea of creating and selling buttons. The buttons will help demonstrate solidarity with Indigenous people and support for MMIWG awareness. Lastly, on the morning of May 5th, students will infuse the school with Indigenous culture by having COVID-19 safe Pow Wow dancing and drumming in the rotunda. It is really incredible to witness students' determination and creativity come alive when they are passionate about working towards a common goal.

Georgia Fadden
Educator, Abbotsford Senior Secondary