For Class on March 15, Evelyn presented us with a documentary about her father, George Poitras. Poitras was an athletic individual and a residential school survivor. He played hockey, basketball, and football. Sports were a way for Poitras to get away from residential schools. The schools valued athleticism and as such would treat those individuals better than other survivors.
To commemorate him, Poitras’ family would hold sporting events and tournaments in his honour. For example, the Poitras family participated in a relay where they carried an eagle feather from Lebret residential school (where George Poitras attended) to his grave sight. This was an important event because it was done so that George’s spirit could be taken from the residential school to his grave sight to rest in peace.
Watching the video was interesting but it was incredible to actually go to Lebret in the next week for our treaty walk. As a future educator, I recognize the value of place based education. This is a pedagogical practice where the subjects being taught in the classroom are moved to the place connected to the topic. When this is done, students feel more connected to the subject matter. We did this as a class when we arrived in Lebret – the location of the residential school George Poitras attended for 13 years. I felt this impact when we arrived in Lebret. Seeing the town and the crumbling monuments of the residential schools was eerie. Admittedly, I had never been to a physical area where residential schools existed – I have only seen these areas in class. Simply being in this location meant that I would remember my experience for the rest of my life.
As an educator, I plan to employ place based education as part of my pedagogy. This will ensure that future students develop meaningful and lasting connections with the subject matter and people taught in treaty education. The Poitras family recognized the value of place in how they remembered their beloved family member. The relay was a beautiful way to honour George Poitras and I feel inspired to approach my curriculum in a similar way.