Rutland Middle School staff and students describe their Walk to End Violence on Moosehide Campaign Day with one simple word: goosebumps.
The school is in Kelowna, B.C., with a population of 500 students. Approximately 150 of those are Indigenous students. On Moose Hide Campaign Day, the entire school walked around the school with their homemade posters, urging an end to violence against women and children. The walk ended on the field with a drumming and singing ceremony.
“It felt so powerful to spread awareness on such a hard and heavy topic. Being able to walk and having all the cars honking and waving meant a lot,” said eighth-grade student Jill Felipe. “The whole walk gave me goosebumps.”
Melissa Harris is a teacher who works with Elders in the community to Indigenize and decolonize the school’s curriculum. Harris was instrumental in bringing the Moose Hide teachings into the school, along with Naomi Ehlers, the school’s Advocate, and several other teachers.
“It gave a lot of people goosebumps, to be honest,” said Harris. “We had our entire school walking. And the kids were so respectful; they understood the message. At the end, all 500 students stood in a giant circle on our field. Naomi had the drum. She hadn’t drummed the Women’s Warrior Song before, but we had been taught it. She was drumming. I was singing. For us, it felt like empowered courage. It was like we have to do this.”
The school had been preparing for Moose Hide Campaign Day well in advance. They learned about the Highway of Tears, made posters and even attended a Moose Hide ceremony at the local high school. The students listened, were respectful and talked openly. Harris explained that it was important the students took initiative in wanting a moose hide pin and not for the school just to hand them out.
“We ran out of pins. All the kids wanted one. And I was like, wow, they were really listening. That struck home.”
What’s clear: the students at Rutland Middle School are driven to learn about our country’s colonial past and how they can become advocates for a healthier future. Harris knows how important it is to listen to what the students want to learn about and build a curriculum from that. At the same time, teachers are always looking for ways to bring truth and reconciliation into the classroom. The Moose Hide Campaign was the perfect fit.
“Our Elders have told us that we need to have these conversations,” said Harris. “They told us to talk about it in a way that makes the kids feel safe, and they’ll hear the message.”