Metis Society of Nanaimo at GES

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, December 6 2016

Principal Dave Travers at Gabriola Elementary School (GES) contacted the Metis Society of Nanaimo and asked if they would come to Gabriola to do some demonstrations around Aboriginal education with Metis artifacts. This happened on November 17, right around Metis Cultural Awareness Day.

“They came in and they had four stations, and one was talking about the Metis sash and its many uses,” says Travers. “It’s like a scarf that they wrap around their waist and it has seven or eight different uses including using it as a notepad, a first aid kit and as a pocket. Then students got a chance to use a loom and learned about doing threading to make the sash.”

Two divisions of students, the Grade 5/6 class and the Grade 6/7 class were involved in talking about tipis and participated in setting up miniature tipis. They also rotated through a station about the Red River cart, which is an ox cart specifically made in the Red River Valley in Manitoba. 

They explained the smudging ritual, which is used for blessing people. “They actually light the sage on fire,” says Travers, “and they also talked about the Metis flag.”

The Metis people are essentially half-European and half-First Nations. Another station, which was a huge hit with the children, was called the tomahawk toss. “All the kids learned how to handle a tomahawk and to toss it. They each had three turns at least.” The tomahawk is like an axe, which is thrown in the air in a circular motion until it lands on the target, usually a log.

“One of the things when I was setting up, was I said that we’re going to have that. We’ve got to have tomahawk tosses,” says Travers, who adds that GES has special funding to support Aboriginal events. One of his colleagues at John Barsby Secondary School put him in touch with the Metis Society of Nanaimo.

“Metis is in our curriculum to introduce. It’s part of our French curriculum. Mrs. Culbertson and Mr. Bradbrooke and I did some planning. 

“It was the first time we’ve done it at the school. It’s important for our students to have a good understanding of different Aboriginal cultures because it helps in reconciliation.” 

When asked if the students knew what that meant, Travers said the students know about Residential Schools.

“I think it was a priming experience. A Metis kick-off to get kids interested. The kids responded to it really well.” Travers says the students will now use 10 different artifacts that they learned about to create a memory game in line with their Social Studies and French curriculum.