Native room opened at Fort High

Ten brightly-coloured banners—sporting the logos of local native bands—now hang proudly on the wall of the “circle room” at Fort Frances High School.
About two dozen aboriginal students joined chiefs and elders from several local bands in a ceremony Monday to bless the room, which will be used to promote First Nations culture within the high school.
The ceremony also marked the beginning of Native Awareness Week at Fort High—something that has not been celebrated there in previous years.
“I think it’s something that had to be done,” Grade 11 student Kari Yerxa said afterwards.
“It’s important because it gives us a sense of who we are as aboriginal youth,” she added. “It gives us a sense of relief because the school shows us that our culture can still be preserved.”
During the ceremony, in which elder Rosie Boshkaykin prayed to the Creator to watch over the students and guide them in their work and lives, students and guests sat proudly beneath the banner that represented their band.
The multi-coloured banners were sewed together by Viola Medicine, who said it made her feel good to see them all hanging together in the room.
Following the blessing ceremony, FFHS principal Ian Simpson explained the circle room was going to be an important part of school life.
“We will be using this as much as possible to promote First Nations culture in the school,” he noted. “We hope to make First Nations culture an everyday part of life here and this is an opportunity to show our commitment to that.”
Simpson, who invited elders and chiefs to return to the school at any time, said it was important for students to have their culture represented at Fort High.
“It gives students a more comfortable feeling of belonging in our school,” he explained.
Education Director Warren Hoshizaki attended the ceremony on behalf of the Rainy River District School Board. Chief Gary Medicine of Rainy River First Nations also was happy to be on hand.
“I think it most certainly brings this together,” he said. “It is an opportunity for chiefs to be part of this. It was good to see a number of them here today.
“It’s the opportunity for youth to appreciate the values of their elders,” he added.
Brian Perrault of Couchiching was pleased with what he saw Monday.
“Just to see that Ojibwa culture is recognized and acknowledged by the school,” he said. “It is giving the kids somewhere they can feel at home and it will make them more a part of the school.”