On Tuesday, October 11th, the YMCA Academy community celebrated the school’s Feast of Thanks for the fifth year. With dozens of families contributing food — from savoury turkey and ham to delectable desserts — for the potluck feast, we gathered in the cafeteria at lunch, to hear and view presentations from students and from our special guest, and, of course, to feast.
Students from Katie’s Aboriginal Voices class presented to the whole school their research and ideas on the Indigenous past and present of the Toronto area, as well as inquiring into the question of how to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in a way that is inclusive and respectful of Indigenous experiences and perspectives. Meanwhile, Brandon’s Origins and Citizenship class contributed visual displays looking at Thanksgiving and related festivities from a newcomer point of view. As teachers committed to inclusiveness and other social justice principles, we cherish this event as an opportunity for diverse voices to be heard, and for our community to gather together in learning from and sharing with one another. And while students were most vocal in expressing their love of meat and homemade cookies, they also expressed plenty of thanks for such opportunities, and desires to learn more.
For the second time, we were fortunate and honoured to welcome Darlene King, who took time out of her busy day at the nearby Native Women’s Resource Centre to speak briefly to students about her own experiences, as well as to bless and open out feast. After thanking our students for their thoughtful presentations, Darlene spoke of her own background and the importance of learning about, and in some cases reconnecting with, Indigenous knowledge and cultural traditions. She also opened our feast with an Anishinaabe prayer, and then began it by preparing a “spirit plate,” a plate of food reserved to acknowledge our ancestors. Darlene would later take this food with her in order to return it to the earth.
The Academy community is also thankful for the contributions of students from the Literacy class, who helped set up on Tuesday and had created posters to advertise the event.
Of course gratitude should never be confined to just one weekend, but we look forward to seeing this particular tradition of learning, sharing, and thanks continue for years to come.
Check out more photos from this event on our Facebook page!