PHOTOS: Comox school commemorates Orange Shirt Day with Reconciliation Butterfly Project

Each of the 650 butterflies created for the Reconciliation Butterfly Project carries its own personal message. Photo by Alissa MatherEach of the 650 butterflies created for the Reconciliation Butterfly Project carries its own personal message. Photo by Alissa Mather
Each of the 650 butterflies was hand-crafted by Highland students. Photo by Alissa MatherEach of the 650 butterflies was hand-crafted by Highland students. Photo by Alissa Mather
Each of the 650 butterflies was hand-crafted by Highland students. Photo by Alissa MatherEach of the 650 butterflies was hand-crafted by Highland students. Photo by Alissa Mather
Each of the 650 butterflies was hand-crafted by Highland students. Photo by Alissa MatherEach of the 650 butterflies was hand-crafted by Highland students. Photo by Alissa Mather
The Reconciliation Butterfly Project culminated with a blessing ceremony led by Mary Everson and David Dawson in Highland’s library where the mobiles were hung. Photo by Alissa Mather.The Reconciliation Butterfly Project culminated with a blessing ceremony led by Mary Everson and David Dawson in Highland’s library where the mobiles were hung. Photo by Alissa Mather.
Wooden butterflies hang from a skylight at Highland Secondary School in Comox. The Reconciliation Butterfly Project was created to commemorate Orange Shirt Day at Highland Secondary. Photo suppliedWooden butterflies hang from a skylight at Highland Secondary School in Comox. The Reconciliation Butterfly Project was created to commemorate Orange Shirt Day at Highland Secondary. Photo supplied

The Reconciliation Butterfly Project began in Spring 2021 when Highland teachers, Alissa Mather and Amber-Skye Brammall, discussed the need for a meaningful project to commemorate Orange Shirt Day at Highland Secondary.

In consultation with SD71 Indigenous Education curriculum support teacher, Lelaina Jules, they developed a cross-curricular project for their two Social Studies 10 and English 10 cohorts.

In the weeks leading up to Sept. 30, the students studied the history of residential schools in Canada in their social studies class while in English they studied “backtalk” poetry. To culminate their study of residential schools and of using words to create change, the students learned more about Truth and Reconciliation and heard Indigenous stories about the symbolic power of the butterfly.

The students painted 650 school-made wooden butterflies (representing the reconciliation journey of everyone in our school) in different shades of orange. Each butterfly carries a wish to the children who did not come home from residential schools, to the children who survived, and to all Indigenous children past, present, and future. These wishes include words such as love, safety, kindness, warmth, dignity, and pride. The butterflies were then strung together and made into three circular mobiles.

The final stage in this project was a blessing ceremony led by Mary Everson and David Dawson in Highland’s library where the mobiles were hung.

Their two classes were present for this beautiful ceremony, along with Highland’s Indigenous support worker, school district Indigenous Education curriculum support teacher, Elder in Residence, and Highland administrators. The blessing was one of hope, empowerment, and love for these delicate but symbolically powerful butterflies and for our students who will be our future Truth and Reconciliation leaders.

ComoxIndigenous peoplesresidential schoolsTruth and Reconciliation