Every year, qathet School District’s elementary school students get to experience Cross Cultural Day, a half day program facilitated by the district’s Indigenous Education team and the Tla’amin Nation Community Members.

This special day takes place at the Salish Centre, recognized as the house of the Tla’amin First Nation, where people come to learn something new about the ways of the world. This year, our Grade 2/3, Grade 3, and Grade 3/4 classes were fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from the Elders, gain a deeper understanding of Indigenous culture, and experience the traditional food of the Tla’amin Nation.

The day began with students being asked to sit down in a circle with the intention of having everyone’s hearts pointing the same direction. The kids attentively listened to the Elders as they warmly welcomed everyone with greetings followed by singing the children’s blessing song – a traditional Cree song that was written to remind children that they are loved, valued, and important.

After the singing circle came to an end, the students were divided into five different groups, each beginning at a different station. In total, there were five stations with various learning activities.

The first station featured a game of tag called “The Fish and The Bear”, where the bear had to go into the river and try to catch the fish. This was a lot of fun and got their heartbeats racing as they tried to “swim” away from the bear!

The second station allowed the students to explore their artistic talent and create beautiful salmon prints on paper using red and black paint.

The third station was a fun and interactive ʔayʔajuθəm (ayajuthem) language learning game called “Mrs.Peters Says”, where students had to perform actions based on spoken words in ʔayʔajuθəm. It was at this station where students learned that ʔayʔajuθəm is actually only 1 of 34 First Nations languages in BC!

The fourth and fifth stations were dedicated to cedar teachings, where students got to learn about the cultural significance behind the cedar tree, also known as the tree of life to the Tla’amin people, due to its many purposes.

The fourth station was dedicated to Melvyn, an Elder who showed his exquisite cedar carvings and shared stories of the incredible journeys undertaken by his ancestors to locate the perfect cedar tree for crafting their treasures.

Finally, the fifth station showcased various items woven from cedar tree fibres, representing Tla’amin Traditions, such as baskets, hats, wristlets, headbands, earrings, necklaces, canoes, and even blankets.

After everyone had the opportunity to participate in and learn from each station, the students gathered their belongings and walked to the Fish Hatchery. There, they were warmly welcomed by the dedicated team at the hatchery, including Lee George (Fish Hatchery Manager), Tyler Peters (Indigenous Education teacher), Gail Blaney, and Drew Blaney (Tla’amin Nation Community Members).

The students learned about the cultural significance of salmon, gathered around a fire to witness how the Tla’amin people would traditionally smoke it, and were even provided with a demonstration of how 2,500 eggs are extracted from the female and fertilized by the male. There were definitely a few shocked faces as they learned that one female carries that many eggs!

The day concluded with everyone returning to the Salish Centre for some dancing, singing, and tasting traditional food prepared by the amazing cooks who had been working hard all day. The students were treated to fresh bannock, BBQ salmon, and a traditional fish egg soup. Yum!

Thank you to the Tla’amin Nation Community Members, the district’s Indigenous Education team, and all educators who put together such a fun, educational, and incredible Cross Cultural Day for our students.

This story has been reproduced with permission from the qathet School District. The district’s posting can be found here.