Indigenous students from across School District 23 got a hands-on experience this week at a winter gathering learning about their culture through song, dance and natural elements.
Bright colours and the sound of drums filled the School District 23 Learning Centre over the past three days, as 280 Indigenous students learnt about their culture.
“We’re just here to celebrate culture and be proud that we’re Indigenous folks,” said April Strickland, vice-principal of Indigenous education for School District 23.
“We talk a little bit about what it means to be Indigenous, so the students understand why they’re here and we really want them to be proud of where they come from. It’s very, very important that they get a sense of culture when they’re here.”
Grade 3 students from across the district learned about Indigenous history through hands-on activities and staff believe this will help the kids retain the knowledge.
“Some students have never had exposure to powwow dance, to drumming, to the singing. We really want to ensure that families and students have this exposure through field studies,” said Deanna Necan, cultural coordinator of Indigenous education for School District 23.
The primary winter gathering returned this year after a pandemic pause and kids were clearly excited to not only learn through hands-on activities but to do it alongside their friends.
“Singing and dancing, I liked how everybody was getting along, making new friends and trying new things,” said student Olivia-Jean Mitchell.
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For some students, dancing in powwows means more than just dance.
“To heal other people as we speak,” said student Maverick Bigelow.
The event not only lets the kids learn about their culture, it also allows staff to pass on their knowledge and history to younger generations.
“To see the dancers, their style, their regalia and to know that in history this was against the law for a really long time. To be able to bring it into the district is such an amazing feat for our equity in action,” said Necan.
“It gets me really emotional because I am a first-generation residential school survivor and we didn’t have these opportunities when we were young in the 80s and 90s.”