Garry Oker presenting at North Peace Secondary School. Manavpreet Singh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Approximately 600 hundred staff members of School District 60 participated in an Indigenous learning day in Fort St. John last week to explore the Indigenous culture and history in the Peace region. 

The workshop was held at North Peace Secondary School on May 5th, 2023, to share Indigenous experiences and history in the Peace region with SD 60 staff membersThe workshop was collaboratively sponsored by Peace River North Teachers Association, School District 60, Indigenous Education Centre, CUPE, and the North Peace Administration Association. 

Pat Jansen, district principal of Indigenous Education, said the professional development day aimed to provide Indigenous perspectives to staff members of School District 60 and explore the concept and action of truth and reconciliation.

“True reconciliation for Indigenous communities lies in implementing the policies that will positively influence the lives of our people,” said Jansen. 

Jansen said that the workshop theme, “Better Together,” was selected as the day was about creating a sense of unity among all the participants and organizers. 

“Through local history education, traditions, and language, we want to create a safe cultural learning space where we can all support each other for all our students,” said Jansen.

During the workshop, Doig River First Nation Councillor Garry Oker spoke to SD 60 staff about the importance of Indigenous languages and encouraged the teachers to utilize Indigenous perspectives across all curriculum areas. 

Oker believes it is essential to acknowledge Indigenous history in the school curriculum as Indigenous communities suffered from the misrepresentation and ignorance of the previous colonial policies of the government.

He also spoke about hisexperience as an Indigenous person and the suffering he endured during his childhood but credited ‘art’ as his saviour. 

“We all have the potential to be artists. As long as we listen to our heart and be true to ourselves, we can achieve anything in life,” said Oker. 

Keynote speaker Tristen Durocher, an instructor and a reformer from Manitoba, emphasized the importance of Indigenous representation in the mainstream. He reflected on his journey in a campaign to raise awareness about the high rate of suicide among Indigenous communities. 

Durocher said that Indigenous people should play a significant role in educational institutions — “the foundation of success for future generations.” 

Durocher explained the historical biases of the Canadian government towards Indigenous communities by stating, “Indigenous people were trained to fail in Canada.”

He believes reviving Indigenous traditions and culture would be critical in the ongoing battle for reconciliation.    

During the event, Bharat Ghimire, a teacher at the Key Learning Centre, said thathe learned about Indigenous culture and values, which are valuable resources for his teaching lessons.

“I got an opportunity to listen to songs in an Indigenous language that helped me understand and experience the Indigenous culture, language, and music,” said Ghimire. 

Organizers hope that Indigenous learning day will continue to provide authentic Indigenous experiences and positively change the school’s cultural environment.  

By Manavpreet Singh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 11, 2023 at 14:28

This item reprinted with permission from   Fort St. John, British Columbia

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