School celebrates native culture

Mine Centre School tried to blend the surrounding communities into its curriculum during Native Culture Week, which kicked off there last Monday.
Students from kindergarten to grade eight went on field trips to Seine River and Nicickousemenecaning First Nations, taking part in fish filleting demonstrations, games of lacrosse, and workshops on how to make traditional regalia for pow-wows (and its spiritual significance).
The week wrapped up Friday at the school, where a traditional feast and a pow-wow was held. Teacher Sharla MacKinnon hoped this would act as a bonding celebration, strengthening the ties between the school and the two nearby reserves.
“We wanted to involve parents and elders more into our school communities so we didn’t make them feel isolated,” MacKinnon said.
“We’ve always had a Native Culture Day, where we came together as a school to celebrate native awareness, but we’ve never come together with the communities,” she noted.
Brenda Ferris-Hyatt, who took over as principal this school year from Brian Love, said the students enjoyed their morning at Seine River despite the cold, wet weather–and were equally eager to attend the events last Wednesday afternoon at Nicickousemenecaning.
“They enjoyed begin at their community and being able to show off where they live,” she noted. “They really enjoyed seeing their parents out helping them.”
The bands also appreciated seeing the children come out. Roger Spencer, the “Brighter Futures” co-ordinator for Seine River, said it’s only been recently that the school and band have been interacting with each other off school grounds.
“This is a positive step of achieving that goal of better harmony between the school and the First Nation,” he said, noting their children’s education was one of the top priorities for the band.
“One of the prime concerns to native communities is the children,” echoed Harvey Allen, cultural co-ordinator at Nicickousemenecaning.
He noted the school has used the band’s gymnasium facilities for its volleyball program for some time now, and last Wednesday’s field trip showed “the support that we’re willing to give to Mine Centre School.”
Support which comes from nearly everyone in the community, he stressed, noting there was no shortage of volunteers to help with the field trip.
“It’s a matter of asking,” he said. “Most people want to contribute any way they can.”
“There’s always people willing to help,” echoed Spencer. “Especially for something like this.”
With about 98 percent of the school’s population coming from either reserve, MacKinnon said the importance of native culture plays a big part in the school’s curriculum.
And by going out into the community, MacKinnon said the school wanted to show native culture was as important to the teachers as it is to the bands.
“We all feel like it is our culture, and we want to be a part of it, because we belong to the school community,” she remarked.