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News: Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

"Friends Working Together" to Learn About Aboriginal Culture

Culture is central to the success of our Aboriginal students.  We also know that educating all students, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, about the history of Aboriginal people in Canada including the dark chapters of the assimilation policies of Canada and residential schools, is important for building a more positive future for our nation.  This year, we have introduced a Syós:ys Week pronounced “see ya yes.”  This Halq'eméylem word means “friends working together” with the “work” referring to cultural work.  Our team of Cultural Support Workers will attend each elementary school and provide 3 or 4 cultural presentations in every classroom.  They work alongside teachers in the classroom and share cultural teachings, knowledge and history about Aboriginal people including the First Nations people and particularly the Sumas and Matsqui First Nations Stó:lô  people, the Inuit and Métis Nation (mixed ancestry of First Nation and European with ties to the Red River in Manitoba).  Students learn about history but also that Aboriginal people have had a continuous presence for 10,000+ years and continue as a distinct people with positive contributions to our community.

Following the Syós:ys Week, every student in grade 3 will attend the Stó:lô  longhouse in Chilliwack on a fieldtrip with the goal to raise awareness of Stó:lô cultural traditions and teachings. The Longhouse Extension Program offers students and teachers the opportunity to experience aspects of the Stó:lô way of life, philosophy, technology and culture, while addressing the Aboriginal curriculum in all subject areas with an authentic holistic approach. This sharing is a non-museum approach involving Stó:lô artists, interpretive guides who create original objects and replica pieces while interacting with the students.  Students learn about weaving, fishing, traditional tools, drumming, storytelling, oral history and the relationship with the land.

In Abbotsford School District we have had strong programs to share and teach Aboriginal culture in our schools for many years.  This new structure is allowing us to deliver quality programs in every elementary classroom and allow us to provide a hands-on and interactive cultural experience to all our grade 3 students.  The feedback we are receiving has been very positive and Aboriginal students report feeling uplifted to have their heritage and family histories acknowledged.  Another strategy to support our Enhancement Agreement goals of instilling cultural pride and a sense of belonging for our Aboriginal students.

A big thank you to our Cultural Support Worker team and the classroom teachers working alongside them to provide a positive educational experience.