The entire school community at Nelson Elementary has come together to create a Healing Forest: a lasting project that focuses on learning about reconciliation, the land, and hope for the future.
The Nelson community wanted to move beyond words about reconciliation and into action. As part of laying the groundwork for what would become the Healing Forest, Trudy’s Rock Story was read to launch the project at a school-wide assembly during Truth and Reconciliation Week. In the book by Gitxsan author Trudy Spiller, a young girl remembers the teachings of her grandmother and goes in search of a stone with which to share her feelings.
Over the course of a week, every student and staff member, along with many parents, created an orange river rock. They wrote words of hope and healing on the rocks, with some sharing their words in Indigenous languages. To make sure their messages would withstand the elements, they used outdoor acrylic paint with a clear coat.
The school wanted to create something lasting in a location that the children could see each day during recess and that families could also enjoy, reflect on and appreciate.
Principal Guy Hamilton:
We had an unused slope between the upper and lower fields that we thought would be perfect for it – it’s a prominent space that has now been reimagined and revitalized with advice on Indigenous plants from the Coast Salish Nursery in North Vancouver.”
As part of the teachings, every class studied the plants, learned local Indigenous words for them, and how the plants connect to the cycle of the seasons. The rocks represent the foundational truths and the plants symbolize action on reconciliation with steps to heal the land – the idea being that when we heal the land, it extends to animals, medicine, culture, language and people.
Together, with planning by the school’s Indigenous Education Committee and the leadership of Nelson Grade 1 teacher Krista Boyes – who is a member of the Namgis First Nation in Alert Bay – support from the District’s Indigenous Education Team, and inspiration from the students, the plans for the Healing Forest took shape. The resulting garden is approximately 400 rocks placed in a swirling pattern that echoes the shape of the wind around each plant – all put in the soil by the students.
In addition to being a beautiful symbol of hope and reconciliation, as well as a space for reflection, the project is ongoing with the stewardship of the Indigenous plants and future plans to extend and build on the Healing Forest in the years to come.
Posted January 2023