Staff at Spul’u’kwuks Elementary in Richmond arrived Thursday to find orange ribbons symbolizing Truth and Reconciliation that hung in trees around the school had been pulled down in the night and put in garbage cans.
This was the day before Truth and Reconciliation Day, and students were supposed to take a walk around the school to reflect on the meaning of the day.
While the school’s principal, Elaine Stapleton, doesn’t know what the motivation was to remove the ribbons, she said school staff didn’t want to dwell on it, rather they replaced them as soon as possible.
Stapleton dug into her supplies and found reams of orange ribbon as well as orange burlap and felt. Some teachers made a beeline for the dollar store next to the school to get orange supplies.
And not only did staff work before school, during recess and lunch to get the Indigenous symbols up, when they were visited by the superintendent Scott Robinson and assistant superintendent Christel Brautigam, they got another boost of support.
The school district executive staff sprang into action, making orange hearts with messages for the school.
“It was touching that they took the time… to show us support,” Stapleton said.
The orange ribbons had been hanging in trees on the school property all year round for several years, something that was a conscious decision to show the school community is an “ally” with Indigenous people.
Having to improvise new ribbons and other orange symbols for this year’s Truth and Reconciliation Day made the day even more meaningful, Stapleton said.
Spul’u’kwuks is a Musqueam word for “place of bubbling water” and close to a former Musqueam site.
“Our school has a deep connection to this land and the idea of truth and reconciliation,” Stapleton said.
One student’s comment was “why would that happen?” Stapleton said, but her message was “we don’t know... but look at what we can do.”
Grade 1 teacher Katherine Myers said it was a lesson for her students to “look for helpers in the time of struggle.”
Furthermore, Stapleton added, what happened has provided an opportunity for students to go home and educate their parents on the meaning of orange shirt day and Truth and Reconciliation.
“(The message is) even more powerful because we still have work to do,” Stapleton said.