Last Thursday, Mikinaak School at Onigaming First Nation received two very special visitors.
Sherrill Tucker and her friend, Heather Whitmell, both from Toronto, arrived with a donation of school supplies for the roughly 100 students at the K-12 school.
“Sherrill is friends with one of the teachers here, and every year she would send a care package for the classroom,” explained Onigaming council member Megan Bob.
“This year, because it is 'Canada 150,' she wanted to do something different, something bigger,” Bob noted.
Tucker began asking for donations from school supply companies to take to the First Nation near Nestor Falls, with the aim of raising awareness about the funding inequalities between First Nations' and public schools.
When she collected everything, Tucker had thought about sending it by post but the cost would be too high and she didn't want to put that burden on the school.
So she decided to deliver it to the school herself.
“She packed it into a van and took the three-day drive up here from Toronto,” Bob said.
The supplies included resource items for the teachers like calendars and educational posters, some sports equipment, and art supplies.
Bob noted the art supplies were especially appreciated because the school currently has one art teacher serving every grade.
“The main thing was that every student got a sketchbook that they can call their own and do whatever they want with it,” she remarked.
Tucker arrived last Wednesday, then spent all day Thursday at the school.
At noon, a fish fry lunch was held for the teachers, councillors, and other community members.
The students then were called down to an assembly and were able to receive their gifts.
“The sketchbooks were laid out on the table and Sherrill said, 'I am not handing these out. You come pick out the one that you want,'” Bob recalled.
"It was really cute to see the little ones pick out their sketchbook because they would hug it like little kids do.
“We have some really good artists here [and] the sketchbook is a way to engage those creative minds,” she added.
The students gave thank you cards to the two women, who also received ribbon skirts made by a local community member.
Bob said this also was an opportunity for the principal to hand out orange shirts to the students for Orange Shirt Day (Sept. 30), in recognition of residential school survivors.
She noted that overall, it made for a very special and memorable event for both the school and the community.
Onigaming Chief Kathy Kishiqueb also had a really good talk with the two women from Toronto and was extremely pleased with the donation.
“It was just special to see,” Bob enthused.
“It is really nice to see that someone so far away thought about us and cared enough to reach out to us,” she said.