Riverside Secondary students taking the new course First Peoples 10 have recently been participating in a variety of different indigenous ceremonies and activities. This includes a blanket ceremony, a smudging ceremony, and a field trip. Ms. Erin Tate’s class has also participated in Forest Walks, interconnecting them with nature and the subjects they are learning. The course merges normal English class assignments with Indigenous studies. For example, students are assigned to reflect and find a connection with their environment and with what they’ve learned in a learning journal. “The course is equitable with English 10 yet incorporates Aboriginal perspectives of the principals of learning, which is what we can compare with the core competencies,” said Tate.
This year, a new workshop has been incorporated by the BCTF where students participate in a blanket ceremony. The facilitator of the blanket ceremony asked students to bring a blanket from home. The group sat in a circle and laid the blankets out, all over the floor. This practice is done to represent what was originally known as Indigenous lands of North America to the Indigenous people. Students taking the course, Leah Thomas and Nick Dell, represented the Queen and a European settler. The facilitator narrated the loss of land through treaties, laws, and disease. As they worked through the timeline the size of the blankets decreased to visualize this loss. This gave an opportunity for survivors to share their stories for students to understand the impact of colonization on Indigenous culture.
Students also participated in a smudging ceremony which is an Indigenous tradition that has been occurring for centuries. This practice involves creating a smoke bath that is used to cleanse and purify the body, energy, and surroundings.
On November 20, 2019, Tate took students to Pitt River Middle School to watch a play called Fatty Legs. This play is based on a novel that tells the true story of an Inuvialuit girl, and her experiences in a residential school.
Along with with these interactive experiences, students throughout the semester were taught subjects concerning the Indian Act, Truth and Reconciliation, and the tragic history of the residential schools.