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From left to right: La Toya Dennie, Outreach Coordinator with U of T; Jana, a Grade 12 student; and Dawn Maracle, an Indigenous Undergraduate Medical Education Program Coordinator at U of T, during a Truth and Reconciliation presentation.
April 6, 2017
Learning the Truth Inspires Students
"The history of being Indigenous in Canada involves trauma," said Dawn Maracle to an attentive Senior and Middle School audience.

Ms Maracle, an Indigenous Undergraduate Medical Education Program Coordinator at the University of Toronto, was invited to speak about her experience as a Kanienkeha (Mohawk) woman living in Canada, as part of Branksome's Truth and Reconciliation learning initiative.

Growing up by Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Kingston, Ontario, Ms Maracle began her presentation teaching students some everyday Mohawk phrases, such as, "Hello," "How are you?" "How is the great peace?" Students in all grades enjoyed Ms Maracle's humorous, easygoing presence.?" Students in all grades enjoyed Ms Maracle's humorous, easygoing presence.

Ms Maracle then shifted her talk, bringing to light some of the darker corners of Canadian history, particularly how poorly First Nations women have been—and in many places continue to be—treated by the government, police and others. She mentioned her support for a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and girls.

An activist and an organizer, Ms Maracle is the first member of her family to attend university at the Doctoral level. Many take post-secondary education for granted, she explained, but it is not uncommon for many First Nations peoples to lack higher education; or for an increasing number to be first generation post secondary students. She reminded students that Indigenous peoples only received the right to vote in Canada in the 1960s—decades after slavery ended in the U.S. "Does that seem right?" she asked.

Despite her many accomplishments, she says that it hasn't always been an easy road. "There have been a lot of things that I had to understand and learn about my people and their history. I feel like I had to go to university to do this, so that when my daughter attends university she can choose whatever subjects she wants."

Earlier this year, Branksome introduced a number of initiatives for our students to gain insights into Truth and Reconciliation issues in Canada. Through the Advisor program, assemblies, grade level collaboration and classroom activities, students are deepening their understanding of First Nations' history and issues in Canada, and finding ways they can be part of a solution for restoration and healing.

"You never know a person's history," said Ms Maracle, urging the girls to "Always be kind."

Most recently, Ms Maracle has done this through the Institute for Change Leaders, an organization who, along with Olivia Chow, works towards improving communities by providing training on how to become stronger organizers. Ms Maracle urged Branksome girls to find their story, go out and tell it, and bring about positive change in our communities.

It took a while for students and faculty to leave the presentation, as many stayed behind to reflect on what Ms Maracle had said, as well as to personally thank her for the work she is doing. It was an honour and a privilege to have her with us.

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