Fort Qu'Appelle students get a new space to practice Indigenous ceremonies
FORT QU'APPELLE -- A Fort Qu’Appelle high school has given students a new space dedicated to practicing and learning about traditional Indigenous ceremonies.
Bert Fox Community School says the Cultural Room is its first effort to help repair the harms caused in the past and move forward with reconciliation.
"All of us take responsibility to make space to put back what was taken out by the school system and this space does that," Principal Julie Stiglitz said.
In the centre of Treaty 4, there are primarily four different linguistic groups and this space is designed to be functional for traditional and inter-tribal ceremony. The space includes different doors facing different directions to accommodate different practices.
"It's important that we build a space that is conducive to the diversity in those different nations and their practices," Phillip Brass, knowledge carrier and land-based instructor for the school, said.
The room is accessible at all times of day and is connected to one of the classrooms.
Student Mack Pasquawhitstar said he uses the room to smudge, relax and feel like himself.
“It’s a calming environment and it really helps that there is lots of sunlight and we can stay warm,” Tryphnea Paskwa said of the space.
Fellow-student Shundiin Whitehorse said she enjoys being able to go to the space with her friends and peers.
"[It] makes me feel like happy that I get to share what I’m feeling inside too,” Whitehorse said.
The students also said the room reflects an effort for a better tomorrow.
"The years and years of colonization on Indigenous people, and I believe that this is bridging the gap of racism between Indigenous and non-Indigenous and that's a really good thing to see," Emry Tootoosis said.
"My ancestors weren't allowed to practice their traditions and it really motivates me to be better in the Indigenous life, and in the non-Indigenous life."
The school hopes to open the space up to the rest of the community following the pandemic and lifted public health orders.