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St. Mary’s chief speaks out on controversy over Fredericton High School powwow

Click to play video: 'Controversy after powwow held at Fredericton high school'
Controversy after powwow held at Fredericton high school
WATCH: The chief of St. Mary's First Nation is speaking out after receiving a leaked email where a Fredericton High School teacher appears to compare a recent powwow at the school to having a priest come in to perform communion. Silas Brown has more – May 23, 2024

The chief of St. Mary’s First Nation is speaking out after receiving a leaked email where a Fredericton High School teacher appears to compare a recent powwow at the school to having a priest come in to perform a communion.

The email, which was posted to social media on Thursday morning, appears to be written by a teacher who says they object to the powwow being held at the school due to its spiritual nature.

The teacher says that spiritual events should not take place at the school.

Sitansisk First Nation Chief Alan Polchies said he was disappointed to see the letter, adding that powwows at schools help to foster understanding and learning.

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“We (are) sharing the space with our brothers and sisters. The newcomers, the anglophones, the francophones and the Indigenous people, they all go to school together every single day, so it’s important they understand who we are, everyone who attends those schools,” he said.

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Fredericton High School hosted the powwow on May 21.  Another one is scheduled to take place at Leo Hayes High School next week.

Paul MacIntosh, a spokesperson for Anglophone School District West, did confirm that they are aware of emails related to the powwow and are taking it seriously.

MacIntosh went on to say that powwows are encouraged and supported across the district as a way to celebrate and share Indigenous teachings and knowledge.

“It was a wonderful celebration of Indigenous culture and community,” MacIntosh wrote.

“Our school district, schools, and leaders within value the relationships we have fostered with the six Wolastoqey Communities that trust us with their children for public school and welcome the opportunity to celebrate and learn about Wolastoqey culture, history, and world views.”

Polchies said that while Indigenous identity is often tied up in spirituality, powwows are really a chance to share their culture.

“We want to share our culture, it’s an education for those that are not familiar for why we dance, why we sing, why we speak our language,” he said.

Sitansisk is set to hold its annual powwow in June, and as always, is inviting the entire Fredericton community.

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