Blending old with new, students at Pacific secondary school are learning to move forward by looking into the past.
The cohort Grade 12 class at Pacific secondary school is learning traditional First Nations creative techniques as an aspect of their arts education. The students, under the guidance of First Nations experts, are creating paddles and traditional hand drums, while learning about aboriginal cultural and the concept of heritage in general.
“There is a tribal root to every person, regardless of where their ancestry comes from,” said Charlene George, a T’Sou-ke First Nation textile artist who is working with the students. “So somewhere in the world their tribal ancestry is not that different from mine.”
Teacher Sean Cowie said the cultural aspect of the project teaches students how to look beyond their own immediate worlds.
“(There’s) beautiful cultural exchange and understanding, without any fanfare,” Cowie said. “It’s down on the ground reality, we’ve got First Nations communities working pretty seamlessly within the community here.”
Haylea Walker designed her drum using a traditional coastal First Nations image of a wolf, but modified it to reflect the personality of her own dog, which, as it happens, is three-quarters wolf.
The Grade 12 student said she’s finding this component of her course rewarding, as it asks each student to consider her own background and where we all come from.
“It’s just little things that make you think and realize,” Walker said. “A lot of stuff at school doesn’t make you think, because it’s all textbook, answer, textbook, answer.”
Drum making also adds life skills.
“There’s many parts to the discipline of teaching how to make a drum … that teaches them awesome life skills for anything they wish to do in their life,” George said. “So some of the ones who might have had a difficult time with some other areas in their life, are able to be successful here. Success in one part of their life leads to success in many parts of their life.”
The drums are made from elk hide and cedar rims, something old, and synthetic sinews, something new.
“So it’s like doing old and new together, which is what we all are,” George said.