Molly Bellerose, 11, got a chance to be investigative journalist, super sleuth, researcher and historian while putting together her project on residential schools. Last May, the spunky Ron Brent Elementary Grade 5 student won the RBC Aboriginal Heritage Award at the annual Regional Heritage Fair.
Now her work, which includes vintage photos, write-ups and a video presentation, is being shown in the Where Are The Children? residential school exhibit at The Exploration Place.
Pretty heady stuff for a young girl, she admits.
“I was really excited when I found out. I didn’t think that would happen when I started the project. It took me about two months to do all the research and bring it all together. It was hard at first but it got easier as I went along.”
Her family is very proud of Molly’s project and its impact on the community.
Joyce Henry, Molly’s grandmother, says the youngster’s project also opened old wounds.
“When I told our relatives in Alberta that her project is now being exhibited in the museum, they were very proud of her. The saddest part of all of this is remembering what my mother and grandmother went through. We all suffered because of that [residential school system]. It was hard to show love or affection in our family. Now, I always hug my grandchildren and tell them I love them.”
Henry said her aunt, Molly’s great aunt, left out some harsher stories of life in residential schools when she interviewed for the school project.
“While Molly was doing the project, it brought back memories for the whole family; like how my grandmother was so strict about going to church every day. I used to tell Molly stories about it and she grew up with that. So when we were in Alberta last year, Molly decided she’d like to do an interview with her great aunt Doris Thunder who had been in residential school. (The videotaped interview is part of the exhibit at The Exploration Place.) It was very emotional for her to hear all the stories. Doris left out things she didn’t think Molly had to know about at her age.”
For her part, Molly learned a lot while researching residential schools.
“She [Thunder] told me there were some nice nuns in the school she went to but if you got in trouble, you got punished,” she said. Molly has her eyes set on the future.
“I really like gymnastics and I’m going to go to university.
“After that, I want to become a police office or fire fighter. My teacher’s husband is a firefighter and the job seems really cool. I like the ghost cars that police officers use,” she said.
Molly may be young, but her work is lauded as a key part of the local exhibit.
“Molly’s project is an important addition to the exhibit since it speaks to the youth from a youth’s perspective,” said Jennifer Attree, The Exploration Place manager of marketing and fund development. “It is really just amazing.”
Where are the Children? Healing the Legacy of the Residential Schools national traveling exhibition which in Prince George includes the award winning Molly Bellerose project runs from Sept. 7 to November 30 at The Exploration Place.