100 Mile Elementary school honoured National Indigenous Peoples Day with a performance and art display on Thursday, June 21.
Penny Reid, who organized the display, said the curriculum is transitioning towards including First Nations, Inuit and Metis culture and art can serve as a perfect gateway.
“It’s just like a stepping stone,” said the school’s First Nations classroom support worker. “Art is a perfect way to get into it.”
The students had been working on their artwork throughout the year, she said. But the display pulled together within the past month.
Reid said each class learned about a different legend or piece of history and then created art to show what they’d learned.
“It was a joy,” she said, adding that many local businesses pitched in with donations or art supplies.
Grade 3 teacher Ken LePage said this year’s display was the nicest he’d seen and that the students went “over the top” with their work.
The day began with an assembly, where LePage’s class performed Ani Kuni using drums they made themselves.
The song has been passed down over centuries, said LePage, and since there is “no real way to trace the origin,” it is shared among many different groups.
The song asks the creator to please provide for the people and look on them favourably, which he said is a common theme among Indigenous peoples living off of the land.
LePage, himself, learned Ani Kuni in school and said his sisters used to sing it for his father.
He said his students were “proud and honoured” to have learned and performed such a meaningful song.
“I know it’s a memory that’s going to last a lifetime for them.”
Teachers brought their classes through the gym throughout the day, to appreciate the display and learn the history behind each piece.
Students loved learning First Nations’ stories, said LePage. “There’s something that they really attach to where they are really proud to be a part of it as well.”
For him, sharing the rich Indigenous culture with children teaches respect for other people and helps create balance in what can be a harsh world.
“It’s something that needs to be praised.”
Principal Donna Rodger said it’s important to her that the culture is recognized within the school.
The art display, she said, helped create a “sense of belonging.”
“They worked so hard and are so proud of the artwork that they’ve done.”