Jun. 15, 2020
Thomas B. Riley School has worked on creating a culturally responsive learning environment for all students. Evidence of this work is seen in the Legacy Mural’s placement in the front hallway. It is an immediately welcoming sight for all people who enter the building. The application of artist Ryan Jason Allen Willert’s Blackfoot teachings can be seen in the intentional use of colour and imagery. In ceremony with Ryan, the students involved were able to reflect on the Way of the Buffalo and the importance of seeing, thinking, and doing with your heart. The connection to these teachings was evident in the students’ creation of the buffalo and hearts that you see in the mural. After our experiences in circles and ceremonies, one Grade 9 student shared, “I liked that we were able to smudge. I needed the reminder to connect my spirit to my body and it was cool that we did it at school.” Another student in Grade 7 said, “I like being a part of this mural because I got to show everyone who I am and what is important. Not everyone gets to paint something that will be here forever. I feel lucky that we did this and am happy to be a part of it.” Teachers have shared that the students came back to their classes feeling proud after they painted and were excited about their next opportunity to work on the mural. The impact of the piece also went beyond the small group of students involved in its creation. One of our ALP students who has struggled with his own Blackfoot identity said, “Even though I didn’t paint, I see me in the mural. Those colours are from my culture and I see them in my community. He (Ryan) is like me too”. During the painting process, other students were often heard commenting about how it “brightened up the school” and that “it was nice to see the hall come to life”. This has been a beautiful opportunity to lift Indigenous knowledges, ways of being and knowing, and to display cultural connections in our building. We created the following video so we could tell the story for years to come.
Watch | Legacy Mural Video