Grade 10 has been an impactful year for 15-year-old Lily Margison.
The student of Reynolds secondary’s flexible studies program dove into the region’s First Nations past with a group of eight classmates in a way she wasn’t expecting.
And now their seven-month project centred on the story of Secllemah, a Lekwungen woman who grew up on Ty’Ches (Chatham Island), is one of several Reynolds’ flex projects that make up the Youth Echoing Truth exhibition on display until June at the Royal B.C. Museum.
“It was a big thing to find out we’d have a project in the museum,” Marginson said. “Early in the school year Secllemah came to speak to us and that’s when some of us knew we wanted to focus on her.”
The project became more powerful when the group began talking with Secllemah, which truly amounted to a series of interviews. At times, all eight of them would sit listening to her.
“Everything we asked became a great answer that evolved into something big for us. Her stories are so powerful, it made the project more meaningful than I thought it would be,” Marginson said.
The story of Secllemah, Ty’Ches and the Lekwungen presence in recent and current times is presented with a five-panelled window on the third floor of the museum. There are photos, text panels describing the process and a listening post (with headphones).
“She talks about what it feels like to have settlers on their land and territory, and an interview with Mark F. Salter, who describes the history of the (Chatham) islands,” Marginson said.
The site visit to Ty’Ches (which means “The One Island,” as Chatham and Discovery connect by rock at low tide) is what stands out most for Alex Spearman, who presented the project on stage during the exhibition’s April 14 launch.
“The same trees that fed Secllemah’s family in the 1950s are still on Ty’Ches Island but they’re not exactly doing well,” he said. “The crops have decreased by a huge amount, shrouded by invasives such as blackberry and English ivy, and are getting choked out.”
If Spearman, also in Grade 10, was to take one thing forward, it’s to visit the forgotten Ty’Ches orchards and help revive them.
“I now have a pretty good understanding of the [local] First Nations today, but I want to learn more of the smaller things they did, the food, and the detail of how they lived the daily life historically,” Spearman said.
The group visited Ty’Ches to remove invasive species, and harvested some of the remaining fruits in the fall.
“It’s sad to see such a thriving orchard unkept, we should put more of an effort into that,” Spearman said.
Youth Echoing Truth features 12 student-created exhibits, gallery interventions and online exhibitions, including the exploration of women’s suffrage through a radio play and the LGBTQ community through the history of Canadian comic books.
“We have been so excited to find such a willing and gracious community partner in the Royal B.C. Museum as we look to push back the high school walls of learning,” said Brad Cunningham, the department head for Reynolds’ flexible studies program. “We want our students to have a chance to both learn from and contribute to their community,”