The Ucwalmícwts language and culture program is a locally developed, school-based program approved by the School Board. It was developed as part of our district’s Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement (EA). Every district in the province is required to have an Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement that commits us to improving the educational outcomes for First Nations children, which are dramatically inferior to those of other Canadian children. Part of the way the goals of this agreement are being met in our school is through language exposure. Other schools in the district also offer Squamish language classes to their students. For more information about BC’s Aboriginal Enhancement Agreements, go to: https://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/abed/agreements/. To read the EA for School District 48, click here: https://sd48seatosky.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/signed-enhancement-agreement-2014.pdf.
The importance of incorporating First Nations language and culture into our education system cannot be overemphasized in light of Canada’s history with Aboriginal peoples and the recommendations put forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). Led by Chief Justice Murray Sinclair, the Commission was created to inform all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools by preparing a historical record and making recommendations to the Government with the goal of reconciliation renewed relationships based on understanding and respect. The TRC released its final report in June 2015. We highly recommend watching this short video featuring Justice Murray Sinclair on the role of education in reconciliation: https://vimeo.com/25389165. You can also read a summary of the final report here: http://nctr.ca/assets/reports/Final%20Reports/Executive_Summary_English_Web.pdf.
At Signal Hill, every class in the school participates in the language and culture program. The lessons are taught by a teacher who has graduated from an approved language teaching program, and an elder from one of the St’at’imc Communities. Classes are also supported by the regular classroom teacher at all times. Although we are still fine-tuning this program, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Several parents at the meeting noted that their children were coming home with new words and information about what they have learned in the program. If you are interested in learning some words or hearing the language, check out the First Voices website at http://www.firstvoices.com/en/Lilwat.
As part of the culture program, many students at Signal Hill have and will be learning about the history of Indian Residential Schools this year. This topic is now an area of focus in the new BC curriculum. We will be sending more information home with families over the coming weeks. We are also planning a project at the school on the topic of reconciliation and hope to involve families and community members as much as possible in this process.
A group of students from our school have been invited to attend the Squamish Li’wat Cultural Centre this week in anticipation of the opening of a new exhibit focused on the history of residential schools in Canada. The exhibit is called Where are the Children? It has been shown in venues across the country and features survivor stories, archival photos and documents depicting residential schools from 1831 to 1969. It will open at the SLCC on Feb. 6. There is an online exhibit as well that can be accessed at: http://wherearethechildren.ca/en.
If you would like more information or have any questions or concerns, please contact Ms. Busalacchi, Ms. Verge or Mr. Dunkin at the school.