'Day of Sucwentwecw' one of many initiatives aimed to improve student aboriginal awareness

By Vanessa Ybarra
April 7, 2017 - 12:30pm Updated: April 7, 2017 - 6:19pm

KAMLOOPS — The fourth annual 'Day of Sucwentwecw ' was held in Kamloops Friday, with all schools in the district taking part.

The event is aimed at encouraging students and staff to learn more about First Nations culture and history.

While the event continues to grow every year, the reality is aboriginal education is at a minimum in many high schools throughout the district.

At Norkam Senior Secondary School, 20% of the student population is First Nation heritage, one of the highest in the region, and yet there are few programs being offered to reflect this part of the student population.

Friday's gathering in the Norkam Senior Secondary gymnasium was far from your average assembly, with students coming together to watch a traditional First Nations game called Lahal.

"What better way to teach the traditional roles of our men and women than playing a game that's a thousand years old," said First Nations councilor Peter Michel.

The bone-hiding game, taught my Michel, is part of this year's 'Day of Sucwentwecw', with elementary and high schools throughout the district holding similar events celebrating First Nation culture.

"April 7th has been set aside as a day when we specifically focus on our relationship with the Secwepemc people and their relationship with us," said Alison Sidow, Superintendent of Schools for School District 73.

"It's a way to reconnect to the culture," said Norkam Principal Jonathan Brady. "It's an opportunity for the community to join with the schools again and see that the culture is still alive."

While the event becomes more popular every year, the reality is many students knowledge of First Nations culture remains limited.

Grade 12 student Patrick DePew is one of them.

"It's just a general 'I have no idea and I don't care' thing," said DePew.

Many of the students CFJC News spoke to Friday refused to be on camera but also admitted to knowing next to nothing about Indigenous history.

"I don't think a lot of people are interested in aboriginal history, yet it's important they know just as much about it as vikings or whatever they're into," said Grade 10 student Tyrell Eli.

Changes are in place to make improvements.

Currently, kindergarten to grade nine teachers are required to weave basic First Nations history into their lessons.

"The redesigned curriculum is fully implemented through," said Sidow. "We will begin implementing grades ten through 12 as of next year."

While First Nations art has been alive and well at Norkam for years, district officials say the change in policies is likely to get more aboriginal and non-aboriginals talking and learning about one another.

"Many young people have not been connected to their culture or felt as comfortable being open about their culture,"added Sidow. "This is an opportunity to learn more about one another."

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