Reconciliation can mean holding out an olive branch, mending fences, or reuniting.
“For a lot of Canadians it’s about connecting again, doing it in a positive way, and doing it together,” said Carly Smith. The Grade 7 teacher at Eastview Middle School organized a powwow Monday in the gymnasium to help foster a conciliatory spirit between indigenous and non-aboriginal communities.
Colourful First Nations dancers, wearing fancy shawls, eagle feathers and dresses with metal jangles, joined drummer and native singers to perform for about 600 Grade 6 to 8 students.
Smith, who was never exposed to indigenous customs when she went to school, spent three years working in the Arctic, getting to know Inuit people and their “welcoming” culture.
As co-ordinator of Eastview’s FNMI (First Nations, Métis, Inuit) program, she now feels it important for all young Canadians to become familiar with some of the music, dance and traditions of this land’s first people.
Hopefully, it broadens their world, and helps create a climate of understanding, tolerance and inclusion, said Smith.
Since Eastview has a significant number of Métis or First Nations students, she added, this also helps strengthen their culture within the school to create a sense of belonging.
This is the fourth year that Eastview has invited aboriginal singers, dancers and musicians from the city and surrounding reserves to perform for students. “Everybody’s got to do their part for reconciliation,” said Smith, who feels the annual celebrations are the school’s way of showing respect for aboriginal culture.
Monday afternoon was also full of First Nations activities for the students, who got to explore bannock making in the home-ec room, drumming and First Nations regalia, an aboriginal medicine garden, and teepee raising. They learned about the Medicine Wheel, hoop dancing and indigenous legends.
As well, a range of aboriginal crafts and games were offered, including Métis weaving, Inuksuk making, Turtle Island painting, lacrosse and stick games.
(With photos by LANA MICHELIN/ Advocate staff )