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Article and photos by Jared Story
River Elm School is building community by
On May 31, the Elmwood nursey to Grade 6
school held its first-ever Indigenous Community Feast. River Elm’s gymnasium
was filled with approximately 400 students, staff, parents and community
members, dining on turkey, mashed potatoes and other foodstuffs.
The feast was spearheaded by the school’s
new principal Cree Crowchild, who started at River Elm in January.
“This dream started probably the second or
third day in. It was our staff meeting and I talked about building community
spirit and what better way to do that than through food? Food brings any
culture together,” Crowchild said.
An educator for 17 years, Crowchild said
Indigenous culture isn’t always represented in the school system, but that
certainly won’t be the case at River Elm.
“Since I’ve been here we started smudging
daily,” said Crowchild, noting that 42 percent of River Elm’s student
population is self-declared Indigenous.
“We average about 22 participants. We have parents
and community members that smudge with us. We do it right out in front of the
school every single day, whether it’s rain, snow, sleet or shine. We’re like
the post office.”
“Next fall on a non-instructional day, I’m
taking the entire staff and we’re going out to pick our medicine for our sage.”
Crowchild said River Elm staff will also be
participating in sweat lodges throughout the school year.
“I want to show that Indigenous perspective
and culture is as important as numeracy and literacy,” he said.
Crowchild said the plan is to eventually hold
four feasts year. He envisions holding the dinner at Elmwood High School, which
has capacity for more community members, as well as adding cultural
entertainment, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
“This is really about coming together and
sitting with your neighbour,” Crowchild said. “It’s about discovering who
you’re here with. I truly believe we’re more similar than we are different. We
all bleed the same colour, but sometimes the colour of our skin gets in the way
“My mission tonight is to celebrate who we
are as a community, but also understand we’re basing these things on
traditional practices, which, if you think about it, is just being a human
being and doing what’s right. It’s simple, but sometimes those simple things
get pushed aside by other factors.”