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News Release: District honours National Indigenous Peoples Day by awakening over 200 drums and painting two 30-foot Tipis

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News Release

June 21, 2022 

Today, over 200 student-made drums were awakened and blessed outside the Vancouver School District’s Education Centre. This was part of an event organized by District staff to honour National Indigenous Peoples Day. 

Throughout this school year, the District’s Indigenous Education Department led over 200 students on a drum and rattle making journey. Tying the curriculum with the drum making process, students used math skills to calculate the circumference of drums and to tie knots. Primary students learned beats, patterns and shapes through making drums and rattles, and playing them. Students learned specific Indigenous songs gifted to the public to sing along with their drums and rattles.

Today, students and staff participated in a traditional smudging ceremony, watched the Drums Across North and South America video compiled by District staff, and took part in hand painting on two 30-foot Tipis.

The hand painting on the lower third of the Tipis honours the children who were taken from their families and sent to residential schools. The top two-thirds are painted by local Indigenous artists. “At the doorway it’s the Dad and the Mom that greet you. Dad is in the blue and Mom is in the green,” says Saskatchewan Plains Cree artist Jerry Whitehead. “It represents and honours my own family.”

The other Tipi was painted by Sharifah Marsden, an Anishinaabe and Ojibwe artist from the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation in Ontario. “The theme is reconciliation,” says Marsden of her Tipi. “The purple flower represents the ‘forget me not’ flower to remember the children who didn’t make it home from residential school, and survivors. Two orange flowers are a sentiment of love. The strawberry flower represents love and joy in our culture.”

“It is our responsibility to be good relatives to the land, language and cultural practices of Indigenous peoples,” said District Principal of Indigenous Education Chas Dejarlais. “Today, we intentionally make space to receive Indigenous knowledge and praxis by listening, learning and understanding the rich traditions of Indigenous peoples—honouring and respecting the land that we’re on.”

 Approximately 2200 students in the District self-identify as Indigenous, representing 634 bands and over 50 Nations.

Learn more about Indigenous education at the District


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