Students throughout the district will participate in the Day of Sucwentwecw this Friday.
“Sucwentwecw,” the Secwepemctsin word for acknowledging one another, is an initiative that recognizes and celebrates the Secwepemc people and the other Aboriginal people residing in the Secwepemculecw.
It is a day dedicated for each school in School District 73 to invite an elder, knowledge keeper or representative from one of the local bands in the Secwepemcul’ewc to be witness and welcomed.
It is a day for students to share their learning, to learn more and to participate in reconciliation with Aboriginal people through respect and acknowledgement.
The idea for the Day of Sucwentwecw was proposed in 2012 by the Kamloops Thompson Teachers’ Association’s social justice committee and endorsed by the Aboriginal education council.
It was approved by the board of education in 2014, well before the province revised the curriculum to include the First People’s principles of learning.
Initially, most schools marked the day with assemblies, similar to Remembrance Day.
For many schools, the assembly has become more of a gathering in which schools celebrate their learning about Aboriginal peoples in Canada and includes a welcome or opening from an elder or knowledge keeper.
In Chase, both Chase secondary and Haldane elementary will be at Tsutswecw Park.
They will start with a traditional welcome, followed by a storytelling session with Kenthen Thomas. The N’WeJinan singers from Salmon Arm will perform and students will participate in a barbecue luncheon before embarking on a trip through the park, checking out the new First Nations Interpretive Trail the Secwepmectsin class has been developing in conjunction with the BC Parks Foundation and BC Parks.
At Sa-Hali secondary, the plan is to celebrate outside on the school field (weather permitting). They have invited the Sage Hill drummers to perform a song while the school’s Ribbon Skirt group dances.
The school band will play the Eagle Song. In class, students will create a tile that honours self, family, community or land, this year’s theme for the Day of Sucwentwecw.
These are just two examples of how schools are incorporating Aboriginal worldviews and perspectives and how all students are encouraged to see the world through a different lens.
Although Aboriginal history and culture will be the focus during the first week of April, the traditional Secwewpemc new year, visitors to any of the district’s schools will see evidence of Aboriginal ways of knowing every day of the year. SD73 is committed to ensuring Aboriginal students see their culture reflected in schools and classrooms.
Each day in classrooms throughout our district, teachers are incorporating a revised curriculum that encourages students to learn holistically through project- and inquiry-based learning.
These are key philosophies in the First People’s principles of learning. Students are embracing this challenge and, as a result, there is a lot of exciting learning going on.
In 2017-2018, Aboriginal student graduation rates were 78 per cent, up nearly 20 per cent in 10 years. SD73 Aboriginal student graduation rates are third-highest in the province. These outstanding results among Aboriginal learners can be attributed to strong classroom practices that include Aboriginal ways of knowing and doing and the support of the Aboriginal community.
I am proud of the district’s increasing cross-cultural opportunities for our learners and look forward to building on our success as we create greater opportunities to ensure Aboriginal culture is reflected in our student’s learning experiences.
Alison Sidow is superintendent of the Kamloops-Thompson school district. Her email is email@example.com. To comment on this column, email firstname.lastname@example.org.