Treaty Four club at Riverview school taking hands-on approach
It’s not every day Christopher Caplette can scrape a moose hide and make a traditional drum at school.
“We started off by scraping the hair off, it didn’t work. So we then were ripping the hair out with our hands but now we have the right tools so it became much easier,” said Caplette, who is a Grade 12 student from Riverview Collegiate in Moose Jaw.
Caplette is one of 10 students in the new Treaty Four extracurricular club at Riverview. Constructing a drum from scratch is just one of many ways students are learning about Indigenous culture and history. Students are also learning how to speak the Cree language and the traditional values of the teepee.
Riley Bjorgan, another Grade 12 student in the club, says this is the first time he has scraped a moose hide.
“It’s fun, although I would say it’s a little terrifying because you don’t want to go through it,” said Bjorgan.
The idea to make the drum came from a former intern. She contacted a local hunter to donate the hide and a family from La Ronge donated the scraping tools to the school. Riverview teacher Kelly Grass started the club back in September and says the club’s name stems from the 1874 treaty signed between the First Nations people of this country and Queen Victoria.
“Teachers have a mandate to include Indigenous content in their teaching and this was just something that I thought would be good to respond to that,” said Grass, relating to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.
“It’s a way for our Indigenous students to help them connect with their culture but it’s also a way for our non-Indigenous students to connect with our Indigenous students,” added Grass.
Jeff Cappo, an Indigenous advocate and educator has been teaching Indigenous culture since the 1990s. He has been assisting the club with the Cree class, teepee lessons and the moose hide.
“A lot of these kids when I first started out here didn’t self-declare. Now they’re self-declaring. ‘I’m Metis. I’m Cree or part Dakota,’” said Cappo, adding the drum is also an important teaching lesson.
“It’s our form of culture as Indigenous people. It’s our culture. That drum means life. The heartbeat of Mother Earth, we call it.”
Once the students’ drum is completed, it will be unveiled to an audience through traditional prayer and ceremony. Bjorgan says he learns more about Indigenous culture every day.
“There’s a great meaning and effort put into the drum so everything is important. Everything feels like it’s kind of a ceremony,” said Bjorgan.