By Megan Wheatley, Principal
To celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on Tuesday, June 21, Sherwood Park Elementary held an outdoor assembly followed by a school-wide potlatch.
The assembly include singing, dancing and drumming and featured students who spoke about National Indigenous Peoples Day and the potlatch.
To further support the school community’s learning, during the assembly, Teacher Librarian Ms. Laursen read the story A Kwakwaka’wakw Potlach by Sally Williams.
The story is centred on the importance of the potlatch. The word potlatch means “to give.” It is a traditional Indigenous gathering where community members come together to learn and practice their culture.
Some of the ceremonies that may be performed at a potlatch include: celebrations of life; naming of children (e.g., NVSD Indigenous Support Worker Henry Schooner received his ancestral name Q'puts during a family potlatch); passing on of dances; and marriage.
A potlatch is a time for family members to share their sacred treasure box of songs, stories, dances, regalia, and other sacred items. Like any celebration, the sharing of food is integral to a potlatch, as it is through the sharing of food that we connect with one another.
At Sherwood Park, the potlach took place over the lunch hour on the school field. Students brought nutritious lunches packed at home, but ate together as a community.
As part of the potlatch, families were asked to include a traditional Indigenous food(s) in their children’s lunches, including:
- Dried seaweed
- Buns with jam (in place of bannock or fry bread)
- Any kind of wild game
The Sherwood Park community participated in the shared experience of eating together, and in doing so, strengthened its sense of belonging and community and understanding of Indigenous culture.