Learning About Local Indigenous History with Alumnus Maurice Switzer ’63

Ms. Brown’s Grade 10 English class recently welcomed Maurice Switzer ’63 for a discussion about the legacy of Residential schools and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action. 

Ms. Brown met Maurice through Lakefield College School’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) External Working Group. As an LCS alumnus, Maurice has been committed to the community for many years.  

Maurice has two clans on the Indigenous side of his heritage. His mother’s family is from Alderville First Nation and they were Marsdens. Maurice’s grandfather was the Chief of Alderville in the early 1900s. Maurice also has Jewish heritage on his father’s side – so he draws on his diverse lived experiences when approaching discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Maurice prefers to be called a Helper and not an Elder. He is a storyteller and it is this part of his identity that informed his career choices. He has been a long-time supporter of the mission and values of LCS and was one of four LCS Community Representatives on the DEI External Working Group. Maurice’s compassion and empathy are evident in every interaction. He embodies what it means, and what is required of us when we are called to action. He listens for understanding; he listens with curiosity and with love for all people, all beings, and for the natural world. 

Ms. Brown’s Grade 10 English students are reading Indian Horse, a novel about the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples in Northern Ontario and the students have reached the point in the book that addresses the abuse and trauma that the Indian Residential school system inflicted upon Indigenous children and their families. 

Maurice met with the class to discuss Residential schools and explain the government’s objectives in creating them. He also provided an overview of the effects these institutions had and continue to have on Indigenous people and their families. 

After reading Indian Horse, the students were eager to engage in conversation with an Indigenous person. They had lots of questions about Canadian history and they were glad to have a valued member of the community share their knowledge. 

Amelia Peng ’23 was very keen to learn about Indigenous culture and history, “In the past few months of reading this book and doing more research about Indigenous communities, I really learned so much more about what really happened and the fact that some of the mistreatment of Indigenous people is still happening. It's so shocking how we have access to a lot of things that we take for granted and that we think of as "normal," but some of the girls and boys my age, not just of Indigenous descent might look at as a luxury, it just makes my life and my way of living more luxurious, it reminds me again of how grateful I should be.”

When asked what she learned from Maurice, Amelia said, “[I learned] a lot more about the Indigenous community and what growing up in Canada [...] as someone of Indigenous descent is like. I also learned a lot about what Richard [the author] is like as a person...Morris made it seem like I knew Wagamese as a friend and I'm really surprised that he made me realize that.

The class was so grateful to learn from Maurice and they look forward to his return to their classroom this week to continue conversations about Indian Horse and the Canadian experience from an Indigenous person’s perspective.
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Lakefield College School is a private, coeducational boarding and day school for students in grades 9 through 12, located in Lakefield, Ontario, Canada.

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