Vice-principal Mark McVittie opened the Day of Sucwentwecw assembly at Barriere Secondary on Apr. 3, by noting the gathering was on the territory of the Secwepemc People and specifically the territory of the Simpcw First Nation. He then welcomed to the event Simpcw First Nation Elders, including Elder William Pete who gave the opening prayer, and Simpcw Council members Tina Donald and Jules Phillip, as well as School District 73 vice-chair Rhonda Kershaw, and other special guests.
“It is an honour to serve these communities in the Secwepemc territory as well as all First Peoples,” said McVittie, “This year our theme is “Balancing Our Actions: the Self, the Family, the Community and the Land’. Our hope is that this and future gatherings will continue to serve as the foundation for a renewed and strengthened relationship between the School District and the Aboriginal peoples we serve. By going back to the First Peoples priniciples of learning and reconciliation, we can work with greater confidence – together – to create a brighter future for our families, our communities and our nations.”
Student Izabelle Morin assisted as a Master of Ceremonies during the event, introducing speakers and assisting with presentations.
McVittie presented Simpcw First Nation representative, Councilor Tina Donald, with a handcrafted gift. Donald noted that Chief Shelley Loring was unable to attend, and said, “It is an honour to be here today. As you know we are already working together – there is nothing we cannot do by working together.”
A special presentation was then made by BSS teachers Kristy Dolha and Brian Tomasini, who noted that Barriere Secondary and Simpcw First Nation had asked grade 8 and 9 students to explore symbols to come up with a new logo for the school that shows BSS and Simpcw working together as a unit.
“Logos are very powerful and a good exercise,” said Tomasini, “We are very proud to stand here with a new logo that doesn’t replace anything, it is just a third logo for the school.”
Tomasina introduced BSS grade 9 student Tanner Loewen, the designer of the new logo, and presented him with a t-shirt sporting the logo.
Don Bowser, who is the Aboriginal Education Worker at the school, showed a newly crafted school hand drum with the new logo painted on it. He thanked students Ritchie Celesta and Michael Loring, and Mr. Mitchell for working on creating the drum.
BSS social studies teacher Katja Hundt spoke to the assembly, saying the traditional welcome of “Weytk-p” in Secwepemc (Shuswap).
“Reconciliation starts with knowing and understanding. Here at Barriere Secondary we have seen many good things happening to come closer to this in a not too far future,” said Hundt, “Whether you join an English classroom, a socials class, or math, or science. or foods, or art, or applied technologies, Aboriginal content and principles of learning have entered our classrooms. You will meet storytellers who tell traditional stories and stories about coming of age. Students have the opportunity to experience traditional fishing technologies, or do math assignments with the eye on traditional approaches.
“Coming into our school you are greeted by a new window dressing, you will hear drums sounding, and may even experience a game of bannock ball or watch the Stick Game. Whenever we are planning activities we consult with Simpcw. We have invited community members to enrich our classrooms with stories, music, history, the use of natural resources and more.
“Just recently we started a professional development day which we started in Chu Chua in February. Focus was the integration of Aboriginal content in our classrooms.
“We would love to see a closer relationship between our communities. This relationship, this partnership will be seen through consultation, the inclusion in events, a canoe trip planned in June, and the indigenization of this space. In the near future this building will be seeing its first smudging to start anew and open doors to knowing and understanding.
“Kukwstsetsemc (thank you).”
A tasty lunch of moose and beef stew with fresh buns, and ice cream for dessert, was then served to guests, students, and staff.