Sunday, 29 March 2015

First Nations Celebration of Spring...


It has been an annual tradition to host a late winter carnival since Glendale Sciences and Technology School began serving kindergarten to grade 8 students four years ago. The last two years we have fashioned the carnival to honor and represent First Nations culture. Owing to the very mild weather and apparent early spring this year, our 'winter' carnival this past week turned into a First Nations celebration of spring instead!


 Our K-8 school is a very diverse and wonderful learning place. Our inquiry based, sciences and technology focused school represents a broad cross section of cultural influences, with indigenous culture represented by a prominent number of kids. We hosted the carnival this spring on their behalf, but not only on their behalf. We believe that the richness and relevance of First Nations teachings; their customs, values, traditions and spirituality is a value added element within our school that all kids and staff benefit from.

We intend for the First Nations influence to be ubiquitous throughout Glendale. The first thing you will see if you were to walk through our front doorway is a beautiful Pendleton Blackfoot blanket. We hung this blanket last spring in honor of the Blackfoot People who lived in the area that our school presently sits. The Red Deer River intersects traditional Blackfoot and Cree territory, so we needed to represent and honor these cultures in a respectful and authentic way. The blanket is how we chose to do that on behalf of the Blackfoot Peoples. Plans to duplicate the effort of behalf of the Cree Peoples are in progress.

A description of the Pendleton blanket hangs on the wall underneath of it in the front foyer of the school...
A brave warrior astride a swift steed thunders across the plain. Similar images were painted on buffalo hides by Plains Indians in the 1800s. Our Celebrate the Horse blanket is based on a design from the Blackfoot tribe, expert horsemen who called the animal “elk-horse” for its great size. The arrival of the horse with 16th-century Spanish Conquistadors changed forever the culture of Native Americans, encouraging migration, trading, herding and hunting. THe blanket visually depicts the story of a Blackfoot warrior who nursed his horse back to health and in gratitude the horse gave the man a magical teepee that gave him the power to heal the sick. This blanket was designed exclusively for the American Indian College Fund by Blackfoot artist Michael Gray.
 









We intend to honor and appreciate First Nations culture and history at Glendale everyday, and the blanket is representative of this effort. Our celebration of spring is like a pow wow or round dance. It's a celebratory event. The First Nations Celebration of spring was designed to support and make visible the ubiquitous nature of our efforts to honor First Nations culture and traditions by highlighting and honoring specific cultural elements in targeted ways for all to enjoy and learn from.

The philosophy of our school is founded on the First Nations concept of the medicine wheel. We offer four pathways of intervention at Glendale, each representing a direction of the Hope Wheel... our version of a medicine wheel. The wheel is centered by the word HOPE, which is an acronym for Health, Opportunity, Privilege and Education. If you click on the texts below in each respective direction of the Hope Wheel, you will be redirected to our student support website which details a growing list of ways we support all students at Glendale.

Our First Nations celebration of spring this year is one way we choose
 to organize and represent our efforts around this Hope Wheel. The more we know our students, and the more they know about each other and us, the easier it is for everyone to work together and have positive interactions... to understand each other better.

We shared many things during our celebration. We sampled bison meat, bannock and saskatoon berries, played Aboriginal games, learned how to shoot with bows and danced to Aboriginal drum music. We learned how to create beaded necklaces and bracelets and we shared legends with each other that taught us about First indigenous teaching and learning and point of view.

We did all of this from an 'intercultural' perspective. To us it's not good enough to simply be in the same building everyday with people from other places, or with different cultural backgrounds. We believe at our school that we need to make a bigger effort to move beyond coexistence to mutual understanding... to a place where we know things about each other, our differing values, perspectives, beliefs, dreams and goals. As we were all walking around the classrooms and school grounds during the carnival we heard the drum beats, smelled the campfires, tasted the bison and bannock and witnessed adults and kids alike enjoying the visceral, experiential learning that was taking place. It was a very genuine experience for all of us that touched all five of our senses. It was a learning experience that we can confidently say positively affected every single student involved in one way or another... and we all know each other a bit better as a result.