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Elmwood High School's embrace of Indigenous ways of knowing

February 1, 2024 News Story
Elmwood students preparing deer hide

Students from Elmwood High School have been engaging in activities to broaden their knowledge and understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Incorporating Indigenous teachings helps to foster cultural understanding and environmental stewardship while preserving heritage, and empowering Indigenous communities. 

Elmwood High School’s principal, Cree Crowchild, is the school’s first Indigenous principal and a pipe carrier. In Indigenous cultures, a pipe carrier holds significant importance as a spiritual leader and custodian of sacred pipes. The pipe symbolizes connection with the divine, and the pipe carrier is entrusted with conducting ceremonies, offering prayers, and maintaining cultural traditions. 

“A pipe carrier to me represents so much and is a commitment to carrying the seven sacred teachings both in my personal and professional life,” said Crowchild.

Crowchild has been instrumental in supporting teachers and students with Indigenous ways of knowing in all areas of the school.

On Wednesday, January 24, Crowchild led the first ever girls sweat lodge for students, a traditional Indigenous ceremony. Sweat lodges play a vital role in Indigenous cultures, serving spiritual and communal purposes. They are spaces for purification, healing, and ceremonies marking significant life events. The ceremonies are meant to strengthen community bonds, connect individuals with nature, and provide a platform for passing on cultural traditions and wisdom from elders to younger generations. 



For Grade 10 student Ashland, it was her second time participating in a sweat lodge and was an experience she will always remember with Grade 11 student Anika.

“I was really surprised when we did war crying, I felt like it was really raw and emotional, it was nice to just let out all those feelings. Today (the day after), I felt incredible, I came into school and was dancing around, it was amazing,” said Ashland.

1P5A1879.JPGStudents Ashland and Anika who participated in the girls sweat lodge 

Over in the art room at Elmwood High School students were engaging in a unique opportunity to participate or observe in preparing deer leather led by instructors from Spirit North.

Herk and Allison from Spirit North were brought in for one week to teach students about the traditional way of hide tanning. For Herk, he was impressed how engaged the students were all aspects of preparing the deer leather.


“It’s been amazing with the students. A lot of the kids are really into it, they’re from all different backgrounds, it’s really awesome,” said Herk. Doing this is important to me as it keeps my culture alive and really makes me happy to bring something that is so out of the ordinary for these kids, and something that as so normal to me growing up in my community in Cross Lake.”

Allison%20and%20Herk.jpgSpirit North's Allison and Herk 

Allison, who graduated from Elmwood in 2009, said it’s been a dream of hers to return to her high school to give back.

“Ever since I started working for Spirit North, I wanted to get programs here (Elmwood). There is a high Indigenous population in this school and there’s always been a lot of passion and light. This is a place where I started to come into my own,” shared Allison.


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