A Teacher's Staff Room Story

Somewhere in a government building there is an employee or committee that plans public health awareness campaigns for the Inuit, First Nation and Metis communities. The events planned are closely aligned with the Health Education curriculum taught in the schools. Slogans such as "Keep the circle strong" are often associated with the events.

On the afternoon of November 21, 2005 the students of Wacihk (pronounced "wa-cheek") Education Complex in Shoal Lake (the community is also known as Pakwaw Lake), Saskatchewan, Canada participated in one of these planned public health awareness campaigns. Actually the whole community was invited to participate. As there is no local radio station, newspaper, television station or other means of mass communication I doubt that most of the adults in the community received the message.

My class of high school students and myself were not informed about the event until just a few minutes before being dismissed to go home for lunch. Some adult came to our classroom door and told us to wear warm clothing and good shoes for hiking since we would be outside most of the afternoon.

At least some of the elementary and middle years students and their teachers must have been told much earlier in the day. They had time to create handheld protest signs and seemed to understand what the abuse protest walk was all about.

I know my school principal was not given sufficient advance notice as to what would be happening. He is the type of person who enjoys taking a leadership role in these types of events. He should have been in the school kitchen arranging for everyone to be served hot chocolate and cookies when the event was over and we returned to the school building. Instead we received nothing to warm us up and replenish our energy levels. He was out of town for a medical appointment that day.

So what was this major event that we were all participating in? It was a community protest walk to protest abuse in the community. What sort of abuse? Well that was an open ended question that the students and other participants were free to interpret in any age appropriate way they could think of. The abuse could be substance abuse such as smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol, using illegal drugs or finding other dangerous ways to get high or stoned. The abuse could be relationship abuse of how we treat other people such as by not being polite, bullying, stealing, vandalism or family violence. The abuse could be any mistreatment of people, animals, possessions, your health or yourself. Often one form of abuse leads to other forms of abuse. The government office that initiated this event wanted us to raise awareness and protest all of the different forms of abuse taking place in our homes and community.

So what exactly is a community protest walk? Well it is like a parade. Everyone met on the lawn of the community nursing station that is across the road from the school. A brief attempt was made to create a prep rally type of atmosphere. I know that my high school students and myself were wondering why we were there and what was going to happen. Then someone quickly organized us. As a group we walked a planned route on the community streets in a big circle that brought us back to the nursing station. After our walk a few politicians and community leaders stood on the front steps of the nursing station to make grandiose speeches. They thanked everyone for participating and told us how important the anti-abuse message is. We were shivering in the cold. We did not stay there long before heading back to the warmth of our classrooms. It was difficult to motivate my students to do school work after all that afternoon excitement.

Fortunately I happened to have two digital cameras ready to be used that afternoon. The memory cards were clear and the batteries were charged up. I loaned the cameras to my high school students to take pictures of the abuse prep rally, protest walk and follow up speeches.

The following four pages contain photos that were taken by my students and myself using the two digital cameras.