Catholic school board students tour the Seaway

St. John Catholic High School teacher Sandra Theobold stands with Faith Pennett (left), Hannah Schaller and Phillip White-Cree at the Ontario Power Generation Visitors Centre. Photo taken by Marian Lawson-MacDonald. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network Handout Not For Resale Supplied

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LONG SAULT — Students from the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario capped off their studies on the St. Lawrence Seaway with a field trip to the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) Visitors’ Centre and the Lost Villages Museum Wednesday.

Grade 7 classes from St. John Catholic High School in Perth and Our Lady of Good Counsel in Ingleside joined forces to learn about the Seaway through reading novels, working on projects about the Lost Villages and how various communities were impacted by formation of the Seaway.

As the school year winds down, they took their lessons to the OPG, where they spoke to Phillip White-Cree, who provided them a first-hand perspective on the treatment the Mohawks of Akwesasne Mohawks received during the Seaway construction. Following the OPG visit was a tour of the Lost Villages Museum, where they took a bus tour and explored the buildings and artifacts.

“All school year they’ve been preparing for this day,” said Mary-Kate Bridson, literacy consultant at the Catholic board who helped co-ordinate the curriculum, but noted it was “eye-opening” for students to learn about the human and environmental impact of the displacement caused by the Seaway construction.

St. John Grade 7 students Hannah Schaller and Faith Pennett did their project on the Mohawks of Akwesasne.

“They weren’t even really considered during the flooding by the Ontario Power Generation until 2008 when they got involved,” said Schaller.

Speaking with White-Cree at the visitors’ centre, they learned about how the ensuing water pollution affected their way of life. The change in the river’s flow exacerbated the levels of pollutants such as fluorides being dumped into river from plants in Massena and Cornwall.

“He said something about their cattle losing all their teeth because of the water, and they couldn’t even use that cow anymore because of the pollution,” said Pennett.

“I can’t imagine doing that anyone doing that to anybody,” Schaller added.

Hope Buchanan, a fellow friend and classmate of theirs, had much to reflect on after learning about her findings and the talk with White-Cree. She said she values the importance of the past, but said she was sad to learn about the treatment of the Mohawks. “

I wish we could’ve done things differently,” Buchanan said. “It’s hard to fix things in the future besides us already trying to say sorry. But that can’t cut it.

“I think we need to keep doing what we’re doing and be more respectful to them, and make sure that we let them do things that they did before because that’s how they feel.“

ndunne@postmedia.com

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