While the English First Peoples course is on its way to Belmont next year, a First Nations 12 class has already been breaking down barriers for the past few years.
The social studies course explores the history of local First Nations and is a recognized course at the university level.
Each year, about 60 students enroll in the popular course.
Belmont hopes the English First People’s course becomes just as popular with its students.
Hannah Covey, 18, a non-native student took the course not knowing what she was getting into.
The course was a life changer for Covey who will pursuing more First Nations courses in university.
“It was a huge eye-opener … it made me want to learn more and think before I judge people. (Everything changes) when you learn why things are the way they are,” Covey said.
Zach Logan, 17, took the course to help learn about his own culture. He belongs to the Ditidaht First Nation.
“I learned about a lot of stuff they weren’t teaching in other classes like the genocide, wrong doings and treaties,” Logan said. “This is my history. It’s good to know the past and how dark it can be, and how to fix it … I am interested in most history, but if I have the choice, learning about my own history will always be a priority,” Logan said.
Logan’s grandmother even came into the classroom and taught the students about basket weaving.
“Having my grandmother come to the school and teach was major, that wouldn’t have happened at any other school,” Logan said.
While Logan was able to share some of his family’s history, other students come because they don’t know anything about their culture.
For Mitch MacDonald, 16, this course did more than teach him about First Nations history. It taught him to be proud of who he is. MacDonald is native, but unsure which nations he belongs to due to adoption within his family and other factors.
MacDonald has aboriginal ancestry on both sides of his family, but felt leery of telling people he was native and was nervous he may not be “native enough” for the course. He was surprised at the acceptance he experienced in the course.
“Now I definitely tell more people (I am native),” MacDonald said.
Next year, with the English First People’s course (see story on Page A1) being offered in the school, graduating Belmont students are envious of the students who can take the course. Julia King, 16, signed up to the take the English First People course last year, but – due to a limited amount of students signing up and scheduling issues – the course was delayed one year.
“I think a lot of people should take courses like this and it should be in the curriculum,” said King, a member of the Hagwilget First Nation in New Hazleton. King aspires to become an aboriginal youth councillor.