By Ryan Suzuki, Community Journalism Trainer
I was in the school gym one day, after doing some work on the Internet in my little boardroom office. My office is a concrete room off of the school gym with fluorescent lights, a big oval table, and two big flat screen televisions for youth to play virtual reality games.
As I was heading out of the boardroom, Roxanne, the Ojibway teacher, was painting signs to decorate for the upcoming graduation. I get along pretty well with the Ojibway teacher here, as we both have an appreciation of art and enjoy creative activities. Earlier in the year, she invited me to help out with the MSS News online broadcast in her class.
As Roxanne and I chatted in the gym, she invited me to paint a sign for the graduation. So I agreed, and painted a big, 30-foot-long piece of paper to resemble birch bark. I then painted the text “Graduation 2018” on it.
Robert Kelly, an honoured elder in the community, was sitting with me watching me work. He works at the school to ensure that the local Ojibway dialect is being taught, and to provide an elder’s presence in the school. Robert is very welcoming to me, and has shared many teachings with me. I asked him if there is an Ojibway word for graduation. He said that the idea of graduation is an English concept, and that it couldn’t be translated into Ojibway.
This reminded me that the ways of thinking about learning and education are very different in Ojibway culture and the colonial English culture. I have heard that education is a life-long journey from an Indigenous friend. This teaching allowed me to realize that I shouldn’t embody an colonial education model in my training method, despite it being so normalized in institutional education.
The Migisi Sahgaigan School Grad was a heart-warming event. The turnout was great. There was a massive feast of turkey, ham, potatoes, casseroles, salads, and deserts. All the food was healthy, since the Migisi school has a no junk-food policy. It was also delicious, nourishing, and felt like a home cooked meal.
All of the students received awards and acknowledgement for their work during the year. Many of the students even received cash awards for their achievements.
Some high school and adult students who graduated from their respective programs also received awards at the event. Sometimes life gets in the way of a focus on education, but the students who graduated showed resilience, strength and courage. They triumphantly succeeded in their studies.
The whole graduation event was broadcast live on Facebook using an innovative technology called Mevo, where the camera operator can control the camera remotely, and edit the video live in real-time. Through a broadband internet cable, the video feed was shared with those who could not attend the event in person through the Migisi School Facebook Group.
Kael, who is an 11-year-old tech wizard, was instrumental in setting up the live broadcast system and controlling the camera for the live feed. I have been working with him over the last few month on media training.
The graduation event was a great success, and showed the community’s strong support of their young ones.
Community journalism training is an integral part of JHR’s larger Indigenous Reporters Program. In-community training in Ontario is generously supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.