Elementary school students from Wilberforce and Cardiff participated in a day of Indigenous celebration to learn about hoop dancing traditional cooking and fur and pelt preparation and drumming. /SUE TIFFIN Staff

Indigenous culture celebrated in Wilberforce

By Sue Tiffin

Published May 1 2018

Wilberforce and Cardiff elementary school students gathered in a circle at the Lloyd Watson Centre on April 27 to celebrate Indigenous culture through lessons performances and workshops.

“In circle we’re all equal” said Elaine Kicknosway a Swampy Cree elder of Pelican Narrows (Northern Saskatchewan). “We are all at balance to share with each other. All of you are teachers. You all can share with us. And you can also understand.”

Elaine praised the school system for inviting her and son Theland a Potawatomi Cree youth of Walpole Island First Nation (Southwestern Ontario) to teach and share.

“We’re learning from each other” she said. “It’s important to open conversation to have a safe space to talk about our histories and our development together.”

Theland a young teen who is a youth leader the drummer who led Justin Trudeau and cabinet into Rideau Hall in 2015 and who for the past several years has raised awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women through a 130-kilometre run shared his style of hoop dancing with the crowd.

Elaine told the students he practises every day for 45 minutes and has been dancing for the past 10 years. Many students said later that they were amazed by the dance in which Theland interacted with hoops that transformed him into animals.

An audible “wow” was heard from the crowd when he danced using custom-made LED hoops in the dark.

“You never know where your voice your song or your dance will take you” Elaine told the students.

She said the oldest hoop dancer is 92 years old.

“You never stop your dance” she said. “There’s no time limit on your dance on your song or on your learning.”

While the Kicknosways engaged students in a workshop on hoop dancing representatives from the Metis Nation of Ontario led students in a traditional cooking lesson to make Three Sisters soup and bannock.

Algonquin elder Ada Tinney with son Scott taught a drumming workshop back at Wilberforce Elementary School (WES) and the Minden District Fur Harvesters offered interactive demonstrations of pelt preparation.

“It’s part of the curriculum but it goes so much beyond the curriculum in that it is an opportunity to share in a living breathing way not in a textbook way with the children when we talk about Indigenous culture what are we actually talking about” said Elaine Fournier WES principal.

Fournier said the fourth annual celebration was funded by a Parents Reaching Out grant funded by the Ministry of Education and by TLDSB.

“When you work and live and teach in a community that on the surface looks like it is a homogeneous community” said Fournier. “When we talk about things like equity and inclusive education how incredibly valuable it is that all educators in our community may not know necessarily if they have students that have Indigenous roots and they are then able to see themselves reflected in what’s happening. That is so important.”