First Peoples’ Festival offers learning about canoe culture, Salish drums and historical injustices
The 11th Annual First Peoples’ Festival was held from May 1 to 3 this year with a mix of in-person and online workshops. Hosted in collaboration with the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), learning included a range of topics by VSB educators, Indigenous Elders and the community.
Students of elementary and secondary schools across the District participated in the multiday festival with participants attending workshops on Musqueam history and belongings; traditional plant teachings; the seven sacred teachings; empowerment through hip-hop; Salish drum, dance & song; canoe history & teachings; as well as a workshop that explored the story, “How the Raven Stole the Sun”.
A workshop on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls lead by the District’s Indigenous education curriculum consultant, Brandon Peters, and a workshop on reconciliation lead by Chief Robert Joseph were also offered to staff and students in secondary grades.
Online learning was made interactive with participants completing artwork connected to festival topics. Those participating in Peters’ session, for example, were each given a printout with a female profile silhouette and prompted to write adjectives surrounding it to describe a woman in their life that was important to them. Some also included poems or reflections to accompany the silhouettes.
During the seven sacred teachings workshop lead by Indigenous education teacher Tracy Healy, students were given printouts of grafitti art that spelled out the teachings. Students then filled in the grafitti letters with their own colour and designs. The seven sacred teachings include: Truth, Wisdom, Love, Bravery, Respect, Honesty and Humility.
Many elementary and secondary groups had the chance to learn about cedar strip canoe building during the canoe cultures workshop where Indigenous artists walked students through the process of milling and weatherproofing wood prior to decorating the canoes.
The goal of the First Peoples’ Festival is to promote the diversity of Indigenous people to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, with all groups benefitting by gaining knowledge and understanding through participation in learning opportunities.