Macdonald elementary students and their families gathered Monday to celebrate the East Side school's first-ever powwow-a First Nations' cultural celebration with dancing, music and food. Students have been studying powwow dancing in their physical education class for the past six weeks.
"[The powwow] was for the students to showcase what they'd learned over the last six weeks and to bring the community in. We haven't had a powwow before," explained Sheila Maracle, a district aboriginal resource teacher based at Macdonald, a small school on Hastings Street whose student population is roughly 60 per cent of First Nation origin.
One of the school's staff members sewed most of the regalia for the students using donated fabric. "I would say she put in a good 100 hours of sewing," Maracle said. "That's 77 outfits-one piece for each kid. And it's a lot of detail too. You have to put on the fringe and sew the edges and make sure it's all cut properly. The children put on their own designs, so she had to make sure those were on securely-it was a lot of work."
Maracle said the powwow provided a way to display First Nation culture.
"We learn about Chinese New Year, we learn about Christmas, which is Christian and not everybody is Christian in our school, so it really showcases aboriginal culture and it's really important for our aboriginal students to feel proud of their culture."
Macdonald vice-principal Joan Storlund agrees. "I was standing behind a couple of Grade 6/7 students [Monday] and they looked at each other and said, 'I'm part Cree and I'm part Shim Sham. There was a sense of pride to see their culture represented from a wonderful place of strength and that's what's so beautiful about [the powwow]," she said.
Macdonald elementary is the location of the aboriginal-focus school that's launching in September. It's expected to start with students in kindergarten to Grade 3.
Tonight (June 20) is the Vancouver School Board's adult education forum. The effect of provincial government changes to adult education funding will be discussed. The event takes place at the VSB's office on West Broadway and starts at 7 p.m. Students, staff and politicians are expected to be on hand for the discussion. Details about the forum can be found on the district's website along with links to background information on the subject.