Genevieve Soler and Kayla Weller Transcript

GENEVIEVE SOLER: Good afternoon, Boozoo, Aniin. Good afternoon. Bonjour.

Elders, colleagues, and dear guests. We would like to begin by acknowledging that
we are guests and gathered here today on Treaty 1 territory. Original lands of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, Dene, and the homeland of the Métis Nation.

And a separate note, I am just so honoured to be here today with the real team and the real genius behind this project and many other projects that have been going on, which we can chat with you about a little bit later.

But, the first time we presented this project I had a little bit of a pit in my stomach that Joanna knows about that we couldn't all travel to Ottawa together. So, we have done right today and you will hear the stories of the Elders behind this project.

My name is Genevieve and I'm honoured to be here today, Miigwech.

KAYLA WELLER: My name is Kayla Weller, and I'll just echo what Gen said. It's a real honour to be recognized, again, for the work on this project, and to be here with our collaborators who we could not have done it without.

And to be in person again with all of you, it's just very special. It feels like we've come full circle to be here today.

GENEVIEVE SOLER: Kayla and I are both teachers at Exshaw School. A small community that lies between the Rocky Mountains and the City of Calgary. And we border on the Stoney Îyârhe First Nation.

Our school is a small K-8 public school in the Canadian Rocky School Division of about 200 students. All of whom come from the Îyârhe Stoney Nations. We are nestled in the Rocky Mountains, and it's just a beautiful place to go to work to everyday.

I'm the school's success teacher and I love my job. I have the honour of collaborating with families, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, students, in order to make learning culturally relevant, engaging, and meaningful for everybody involved.

I attempt to create space in our school for voices, opportunities, language, and stories that have not always been welcomed in Canadian schools.

We want our students to know the power in their history, in their stories, the power in their people, and the strength that has always been found in the culture and on the land. I, along with other passionate educators in our school, like Kayla, am committed to bringing the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action alive in our school every day.

KAYLA WELLER: This is my fifth year working at the school. Gen and I began this project what feels like a long time ago. In November of 2018, and our goal was to design an authentic learning task for students that would help them engage in the Alberta social studies curriculum, but on a deeper level.

So, I really connected with that idea from earlier about finding the "I" in history. That's what we wanted to do. We wanted them to see themselves in the history,
in the curriculum, and bring it to life.

And, we were really inspired by the words of former National Chief of Assembly Phil Fontaine. Or, sorry, National Chief of Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine at a speech he gave to our staff on our opening day.

And he really encouraged us to find ways to introduce students to heroes in their community. And to show them heroes that look like them, and bring that to light for them. So that they could hear stories that haven't been told and see themselves in that history.

And we have a news clip to share with you that just does a really good job of putting our project altogether for you to see.

[Video plays]


GENEVIEVE SOLER: I'll just make a note there, in that news clip you saw Elders Fred Powderface, but also the late Sykes Powderface who we lost just this past year and I know it's a huge loss not only to [inaudible] but also across the country.

He did great advocacy work and was critical in many projects that we've done, so it's wonderful to have him here with us today.

KAYLA WELLER: The theme of the Forum today is Called to Act: Truth, Reconciliation, and Collaboration. And as we said before this project really wouldn't have been possible without cooperation with Knowledge Keepers and Elders because someone like me I don't have the knowledge, I don't have the story, it's not in textbooks. We need each other.

So we're so lucky to have the commitment, work, passion, of the Îyârhe Elders who were willing to share their knowledge and stories with students.

GENEVIEVE SOLER: So it's now my honour, I'll ask Una Wesley if she would like to come up. Phillomene Stevens, Virgle Stephens, and Tracy Stevens: these Elders have been my teachers.

I've been working with the community for a long time. 22 years. None of this work would be possible without the relationships, which I know people have been talking about. So, they will speak on behalf of the Elders who collaborated on this project and continue to teach, share, and show up every day for students from Morley, but also students across the Bow Valley every day.

I'll just pass it over. Una Wesley here.

UNA WESLEY: Thank you, Gen. Allow me to say a few words here. My friends, I'm glad to be here. Now we can tell our stories. Our stories are true.

Survivors are working with teachers like this amongst the students. I’ve been fortunate to be with my family. They are my father and my cousin's mother. They're the same siblings, and their grandfather's name was Peter Wesley, one of the heroes mentioned.

I, myself, am an Elder and I do a lot of teaching too. One of the things I was thinking about is that lady in the red.


Now we can tell our stories, I was thinking like when I was a little girl I remember we used to go out of the reserve and go wherever where we can harvest animals and get ready for the winter and pick berries and pick medicine.

For a long time we were not allowed to do that and perform our ceremonies too. We always did things in secret. Now it’s coming to fruition that we are recognized and I just want to honour these two teachers from Exshaw for their time.

It's in the mountains's not easy to go there every day especially in the winter when the school is in operation there. The roads are bad at times, and yet my cousins too they were so faithful. And I'm grateful that our culture and our language has been recognized.

They teach all the students out there, just want to say that.

I thank you for listening.


PHILLOMENE STEVENS: [Introduction in Stoney language] So briefly, I just said, my traditional name is Mother Earth. Passed on from my father's side, my grandmother, now I'm carrying her. Her traditional name, which is Mother Earth.

When we were first born all I remember the very first thing my grandparents told me was. There is a Creator in heaven. He puts you in this world to do work for him. He puts you on Mother Earth so you can teach all the traditional stuff and carry that on so it won't be lost.

I really value that and it's really sacred. I'm honoured — I’m so full of, you know, I don’t even know what to say — I'm so happy to be here to share my knowledge. We do everything. We teach all that and then we do feasts too with traditional food. Like dry meat, moose meat.

I just wanted to tell everything. This necklace is made by my grandmother and I get to finish it and wear it. The moccasins we wear is made by my late mother. She left us at 94 years old, 7 years ago. I just wanted to share that with you.


VIRGLE STEPHENS: Good day. Today is a very good day for me because I'm
here. I've come here thinking I'm going to share a story my mom told me from her grandfather that was at the signing of the Treaty.

I've come here and decided to share that with you. What my great-grandfather said to my mom, words that my mom told me that she heard from her grandfather. She said during the signing of the Treaty, what he said back then was, it wasn't in English but he said it in Stoney.

And because we didn't know a word of English back then, it was never written down. They said we had interpreters, but it's never written down. So, I'm going to say what my grandfather said back in 1877.

I know you are a coming of the people from across the big waters. I will accept that. I will learn your language. I will learn everything you make. Your education, technology, I will use all that to make a living. But, I will keep my tribal ways.

My language, you can't take away my language. It's given to me from the Creator. And I will share my land with you. My mom told me that her grandfather said that during the signing of the Treaty 7.

So, Truth and Reconciliation. We have to honour our ancestors’ visions. Their vision was present day today. We have to share what was said when they did the Treaties across Canada.

I thank you everybody here to think about it. If we work together we can better our future for Canada and its Indigenous People.

Thank you.


TRACEY STEVENS: Hello everyone, I'm glad to be here. I'm the youngest in the family, I'm number thirteen. Mom's no longer with us, and dad passed away
back in 2005. They were both residential survivors. Dad was also a veteran.

Yes, I'm glad to be here and I'm honoured to be here in Treaty 1 territory. I'm glad that I was invited. When I was a girl I used to talk with my friends, my girlfriends.

I would tell them, when I grow up and when I have grandkids I'm going to work at the school. And that's what I've been doing. Thank you very much.


KAYLA WELLER: Thank you all for having us here today just to share our story one more time. Again, it just feels so good to be back together.

Thank you.