A Gathering with Elders
With the new year upon us, it’s a wonderful time to gather and seek ways forward. This was very much the sentiment during a first ever gathering with Elders hosted at the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Cultural Centre by the Vancouver School Board (VSB) on January 5, 2023.
Local Elders from xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwxwú7mesh (Squamish), səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), the team members of VSB’s Indigenous Education Department and other District staff gathered to share stories, feast together and envision possibilities for future activities in schools.
Described as a “beautiful day to sit down and feast with the Elders,” Chas Desjarlais, Acting Director of Instruction, Indigenous Education noted this gathering will be the first of several to take place moving forward.
The xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Cultural Centre, a reconstruction of an Olympic Pavilion and inspired by the traditional woven cedar hat used by Indigenous people across the region, was a warm and welcoming place to gather and connect. Attendees – guests to the land and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm members alike – were warmly welcomed to the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm community by respected xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Alec Dan who also shared the Seven Sisters honour song, as a tribute to all the Elders and the knowledge they carry to share with people, family members and students of VSB.
Following a blessing, attendees feasted together and then considered how honoured guests, the Elders, may share their knowledge and gifts with students throughout VSB schools. Round table discussions were facilitated by members of the VSB Indigenous Education team, to encourage and discover ways to further share traditional teachings by the Elders and the intrinsic value of Indigenous cultures, beliefs, ways of knowing and ways of being with students attending elementary and secondary schools across the district.
The conversations were rich and exciting, with one Elder stating, “VSB is on the right path and doing the work.”
The gathering demonstrated the richness of knowledge and connections and will be the first of several hosted by VSB in its continuing reconciliation journey.