A new addition at Horse Lake Elementary this week is promoting Indigenous culture and providing students with a chance to learn outdoors.
With the help of the Tsq’escen (Canim Lake Band), intermediate students raised a large teepee on the back of the school grounds Monday.
Jodi Thomson, an education assistant and First Nations support worker at the school, said the project had been in the works since the fall, when she began researching ideas for an outdoor learning space.
The school was on board with constructing a teepee, but Thomson discovered the supplies that were needed – specifically the canvas covering – were expensive.
“Then one of the moms happened to find on the Clearwater swap and shop, one that was in Barriere,” Thomson explained. “The lady there had it at her bed and breakfast that she was selling, so I went down and got it.”
Unbeknownst to those involved in the project, the canvas was emblazoned with red horses – which was an exciting discovery when they first unrolled it.
“It was perfect!” Thomson said.
The project was an opportunity to share some Indigenous culture with the students, although Thomson noted that teepees were not a traditional home for the Secwepemc people.
“They were not used much up here, but elsewhere, it was their home,” she said. “They were able to pack it up and move it and go wherever they were going and it was easy to put up and down. Generally, the women took care of the teepees.”
Former Canim Lake Band chief Mike Archie was on hand Monday to help out with the construction, along with a few others from the band. Several intermediate students were also able to offer hands-on help with the project.
Sean Moore and Linden Unruh, both in Grade 7, said it was a lot of fun to help build but also tough work.
“Putting the tent around it, that part was hard,” Sean said.
Linden, who helped with the arduous task of peeling the logs, said it was “definitely” a difficult task.
“Especially with all the knots in the logs,” he said.
Thomson said there are still some touch-ups that will need to be made – including a few rips in the canvas that need repair. She said they will take it down at the end of the school year to ensure it isn’t damaged over the summer and put it back up in the fall.
The space has already been utilized by the Grade 2 class, who took part in a birch bark canoe-making craft in the teepee Monday afternoon.
“They need other places to learn rather than always being in the classroom,” Thomson said.
“Being out in nature and having the freedom to learn somewhere else is so important.”