Circles of Understanding

 The Circles of Understanding project brought together First Nations youth and elders in Vancouver to create a brochure, banners, a website and teaching resources around the impact of Indian residential schools. These materials are also used for public education and in workshops within the VPD for their cadet training. The stories of survivors of Indian Residential Schools are not easily shared.  However, we know that an essential aspect of the healing process is for long-held secrets to be revealed.  

The people whose portraits you see are from different nations who share a common message: Canadian history regarding the Indian Residential School System isn’t just about Aboriginal, Metis, Inuit and First Nations people in the distant past; it is about Canada and how our history is affecting people today.  Understanding and compassion are important contributions to the healing that is needed between our peoples, our communities and our nations. These statements are offered in the spirit of unity and healing, recognizing that we are all part of the human family. By understanding each other better, our community and country is strengthened. A society based on honour, respect, fairness and compassion is one in which all children, all families, and all generations can live in safety and reach their full potential.   Will you join us? 

Purpose: To educate the public, schools and the police about the long-term impacts on health and well-being as a result of the Indian residential school system. Participants: 12 Elders and youth participated in the first year, and many people viewed the materials as they were part of the Year of Reconciliation events in Vancouver.  Outcomes: The materials from year one of this project were so well received that further funding was found to re-print the brochure, and do a photo shoot for a second brochure and 10 more banners, this time on the theme of resilience. In addition a Theatre for Living production was initiated "I have to tell my story" and some videos of elder's stories were produced.

Framework/Philosophy: This is primarily a story telling project, in multiple modes. It is important for First Nations youth to understand the cross-generational impact the Indian residential schools have had. It is also important for the general public to understand this part of Canadian history. In particular, the work of the VACPC works to also create understanding between Urban Aboriginal people in Vancouver, and the Vancouver Police Department. This project plays a big role in not only educating but in also using the arts and stories in particular to create empathy, and help all those on their healing journeys.

Time: 2012-ongoing
Location: Vancouver
Partners: Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre, with funding from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
Resources Available: Brochures, banners, workshops etc. There will be updates to the website in the near future.
Art Modalities: Drama Therapy, Graphic Design, Media: Digital/Electronic, Film/Video, Multimedia, Performing Arts: Drama/Theatre, Storytelling/Poetry, Visual Arts: Photography

Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre / Hello Cool World
Katherine Dodds, Hello Cool World Media
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Phone: 604 251 5567 | Facebook:

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