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A community feast

Article and photos by Jared Story

River Elm School is building community by eating together.

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 of that.”

“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.”

River Elm Feast 1 redux.jpg

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