Cultural reconciliation continues in Wetaskiwin schools

Reconciliation and cultural understanding continues in Wetaskiwin, with schools and community organizations...

A Norwood School student is hand beading a pair of earrings as part of the school’s cultural awareness initiatives.

A Norwood School student is hand beading a pair of earrings as part of the school’s cultural awareness initiatives.

Reconciliation and cultural understanding continues in Wetaskiwin, with schools and community organizations continuing to grow interactive and educational initiatives.

Gloria Rogers, Maskwacis Wahkotowin liaison with Norwood School in Wetaskiwin, says each of the schools in the city have smudge rooms and cultural awareness programs; and this does not stop at city boarders, extending to some of the County of Wetaskiwin schools.

“Overall, Wetaskiwin, I think, is a major part of reconciliation,” said Rogers. “We’re very lucky to have Maskwacis so close. It’s such a valuable resource.”

Principal of Norwood School Frank Heinrichs says there have been many mistakes made throughout history. “Change takes time. It’s unfortunate but it’s important.”

Heinrichs has worked with the Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools division since 2002 and says the division and the community have come a long way since then, but there is still much to be done.

The school’s cultural awareness initiatives are to help provide a cultural grounding for students, says Heinrichs. “I don’t think we realize how Euro-centric our day to day lives are. It’s very important to respect our multiculturalism.”

“We have a number of kids who chose to come from Maskwacis, and a number of students who have links who live in Wetaskiwin,” he added.

The cultural awareness program at Norwood School included many aspects of First Nations culture, including smudging, drumming, language, dancing, and beading.

“With the smudging, there’s a daily smudging schedule,” said Rogers. She explains students will smudge at the beginning of the day to be thankful for the day and think positive thoughts. “It’s just that little bit, to come in with a more positive attitude, more positive thinking,” said Rogers.

A drum instructor works with 10 to 15 boys in the school and practices with them at least twice a week. “They drum the students into the assembly so they have a goal to work towards,” said Rogers.

While female students are not permitted to drum the program does have some female student singers who accompany the drums.

The school’s Cree language classes teaches the basics. “It’s just preparing them. They do have an option at the (École Queen Elizabeth Junior High School),” said Rogers.

“And we do have elders that come and share their wisdom with us,” she added.

Powwow and hoop dancing season is coming soon and Rogers says the school is putting a dance regalia together. “We’re preparing our jingle dresses and shawls will be made,” said Rogers.

There are also educational and academic benefits to the program. “We know there is a gap to how our indigenous students perform on provincial exams. It’s there as a result of history. It’s there as a result of social circumstance,” said Heinrichs.

“Once the kids are comfortable and happy to come here it’s just a shoe-in for academics,” Rogers added.

A similar cultural awareness program at École Parkdale School includes two powwow groups, drumming and Cree language.

“The purpose of our groups is to bring our traditions back to life again because it feels like those traditions are being lost as time goes on,” said Maskwacis Wahkotowin liaison Brandi Schnettler.

Along with the jingle and fancy dancing groups, the boys drumming program and language classes, Schnettler says beading and hoop dancing programs are coming in the future.

She says the students are excited and proud of the work they are accomplishing and she is able to see those changes in them.

Schnettler says the programs work hard to bring everyone together in a positive place.

The cultural awareness programs are not only open to First Nations students.

“Everybody is welcome. I think that’s very important,” said Schnettler. She adds Métis heritage is also included in the programs.

When speaking about smudging at Norwood School, Rogers says it is not just the First Nations students partaking. “It’s pretty much a combination of every student.”

Teachers, principals, cultural advisors and liaisons are not the only members of the community looking into schools and working to make FNMI (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) cultures better understood by the community.

Through an Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada grant Wetaskiwin FCSS is able to present an Aboriginal youth leadership program. Program co-ordinator Brittany McMaster says it was slow going in the beginning; she was holding meetings after school and found difficulty in getting students to attend.

However, contacts within the schools helped her acquire a list of possibly interested students at the Wetaskiwin Composite High School. “The Wetaskiwin Composite High School has been amazing, They’ve been so helpful form the beginning since I approached them,” said McMaster.

Now holding meetings during school lunch hours in classroom space, McMaster is finding the program growing. Students range between Grades 10 to 12 and approximately 24 youth are involved. “I make up little lesson plans for the kids,” said McMaster.

She adds one of the goals of the program is to help spread cultural awareness. “One of the first lessons was about racism, what’s it like for the students off the reserve and what they face at school.”

Heinrichs’ says he thinks the concept of cultural awareness is picking up steam.

“From a school perspective I would like our students to feel comfortable with their cultural identity, and celebrate their cultural identity,” said Heinrichs.

“I would just like to have the kids realize they are valued, to be proud,” Rogers added. “To be proud of who they are and be willing to share what their families have taught them.”

 

Just Posted

Flora Northwest was taken to the Ermineskin residential school when she was six years old. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ermineskin residential school survivor: ‘It just brings me back to the cries at night’

Discovery in Kamloops of remains of 215 children a painful time for survivors

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Alberta reports 100 new cases of COVID-19

The Central zone sits at 218 active cases

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Most Read