by Anne Leach

Students, staff and guests of St. Michael Catholic High School were honoured with gifts of knowledge, tradition and music on Wednesday, May 9, while celebrating Indigenous Education Day. As an education-oriented and activity-filled day, St. Michael’s students were treated to traditional and ceremonial teachings, and traditional drumming and singing.

Following a poignant and powerfully moving liturgy, the school welcomed four Grandmothers, representing different First Nations, to share their cultural teachings and songs. Intermediate students and staff learned about First Nation culture, medicines, traditions, and even had the opportunity to participate in a strawberry ceremony. A Grade 8 student, Shyanne Centen, stated, “I thought it was interesting learning about all the amazing things the Grandmothers did. Their clothes, their songs, were all so fascinating, especially when they talked about the medicine they use. Nothing like ours! It was nice to learn about a different culture.” Staff member, Heather Kingsbury, shared that she “personally loved the presentations from the Grandmothers. Their soft mannered yet informative approach to teaching the children had them engaged, both within the cafeteria and the classrooms. Many well thought out and respectful questions were asked in the break out groups, and you could tell how the Grandmothers loved speaking about their culture and sharing it with the children.”

High school students were treated to the amazing talents of Brad and Sage Picody, two members of the Ottawa River Singers. Based out of Ottawa, with singers across Ontario and Quebec, the Ottawa River Singers are a First Nations drum group. Found on iTunes and Spotify, with their Album “Sing from the Heart”, their skills and talent are undeniable. Brianna Davies, a Grade 12 student, shared: “I felt extremely honoured to be given the chance to see the Ottawa River Singers perform. Normally, we only get the chance to learn about Indigenous culture second hand, through textbooks at school, so it was really unique to be able to experience the music first-hand. I’ve definitely never heard music like that before, and it was really cool to be a part of.”

Sarah Chamberlain, a member of the planning committee, commented: “Reconciliation is very important to our school community, and to me as a parent, a Canadian, and a human being. My goal is to unite, and bring harmony, balance and love into the lives of all those around me. Through learning, teaching and sharing, I believe we can bridge the divides that were created, and build an inclusive and peaceful community and society.”

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