The grounds at White Rock Elementary were filled with children dancing, playing games, having their faces painted and learning about First Nations traditions last Friday at the school district’s seventh annual national Aboriginal Day celebration.
Around 1,000 students from 13 Peninsula elementary schools – as well as members of the public – attended the free event June 17, some of them for the first time.
Gayle Bedard, district principal with the district’s Aboriginal Department, said the event used to be held at Bear Creek Park – where it would attract up to 2,000 visitors – before organizers began bringing the celebration to other areas of the city.
“What we realized is there are lots of schools in South Surrey, White Rock and Cloverdale, and a lot of schools can’t get to (Bear Creek Park),” she said, noting festivities were held in North Surrey last year and will come to Cloverdale next year. “We get schools that have never participated before.”
At White Rock Elementary – the first school to host Aboriginal Day in the district’s south end – students were treated to hot dogs and bannock, games and a visit by the RCMP.
Close to a dozen different First Nations were represented through crafts, cultural displays and a main stage, which featured live dancing, drumming and singing performances.
Donda Humchitt of the Urban Heiltsuk Dance Group – which performed button blanket dancing – said practising the dances is not only a way for members to keep their children in touch with their heritage, but allows them to share those roots with the public as well.
“I think it’s just important for people to know where we’re from and what we do, what we celebrate and why we celebrate,” Humchitt said.
The purpose of the event is to recognize Aboriginal Day (June 21) and “deepen students’ understanding of the Aboriginal People in B.C.,” Bedard said.
“The goal is to share our culture and… bring the awareness that under the umbrella of aboriginal, there are so many diverse cultural groups, and this is a good way to showcase who they are.”