Ladysmith Secondary SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

I. General Information

School Name: Ladysmith Secondary

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members: Brenda Kohlruss:
William Taylor:
Jesse Winter:
the Late David Hope
David Travers:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Transitions Study

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Post-secondary

Curricular Areas Addressed: Other: Mental Health and Attendance

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Social and emotional learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Having Elders in the school to encourage Indigenous learning, Indigenous learners, a sense of place and belonging, and attendance.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: We noticed that the Stz’uminus students in particular are separate from the rest of the students. We noticed that the less visibly Indigenous students often chose not to identify as Indigenous. Coming from the place that our students are the centre of our focus, and the Indigenous principle that learning involves developing relationships, we decided we needed MORE connection. Stz’uminus students were on the outskirts, and Indigenous students were not proud.

Focus: We decided that we needed the greatest wisdom to help us bring our students closer. We have a place in the school, so we asked Elders to come more often. We hoped their wisdom would enlighten both the school and the young people. The greatest wisdom lies within the Elders and the teachings they carry.

Hunch: I feel that the culture of what is important learning is what we have been working against. We need great strength to change the momentum. What learning, curriculum and assessment look like can be very different when viewed through not only an Indigenous lens, but an Indigenous Elders’ lens.

New Professional Learning: The new professional learning we explored consisted of the teachings brought to us by the elders. We asked in Elders who spin, Elders who weave, Elders who do sacred work, and even young people who do traditional work in our longhouse. The separate Elders who came had some similar and some very unique teachings.

Taking Action: We listened to our own Elder to guide us in who we needed to ask in next. Each Elder and knowledge keeper was asked in for a specific purpose and remunerated (given a handshake). We gave a loose question or purpose, then let the Elder lead us. We made sure that we had water and tea or coffee and a snack available for when the Elder came in. Then we would buy the Elder lunch and eat together. Often the best teachings were at lunch. We followed our own teachings of making sure our guests had the best we had to offer. Students also walked with the Elder; this meant watching for them as they came, lending an arm without being asked, having a comfortable chair with arms ready, having the snack and beverage brought to the Elder,  walking the Elder out when all the visiting was over, and making sure not to rush. We didn’t abide by bells or schedules – the Elders’ visits were more important than anything else.Photo description: This photo shows William Taylor (LSS Teacher), qap’u’luq (John Marston – Stz’uminus Artist), yutustana:t (Many Jones – LSS Elder in Residence), Mary Peter (coworker of Dolly’s and not quite an elder), and Dolly Sylvester. John Marston sometimes worked at the school as a result of an Art Starts grant. He came to hear what Dolly Sylvester wanted to share with yutustana:t and the students. Dolly and John led a conversation about cedar baskets. The students introduced themselves in hul’qum’i’num and greeted each other – this is all done in a circle. In the circle of students are Stz’uminus students, other Indigenous students, and non-Indigenous students. They were proud of themselves and their accomplishment in front of a true, fluent speaker of hul’qum’i’num. And they were impressed with how she spoke and were eager to learn from her. So were all the adults. Fluent hul’qum’i’num speakers are rare now. It was a beautiful morning.

Checking: There have been differences. I see Stz’uminus and non-Indigenous students mixing more often. I see non-Indigenous students and teachers giving great respect to the rich teachings brought in by the Elders so frequently. The teachings are spreading further through the school. Students and teachers are more aware of these teachings personally – interacting with Elders rather than learning about these teachings as a side-note. There is much work that has been done to promote Coast Salish teachings, and much more yet to do.

Reflections/Advice: We noticed that some of the young people that carry the traditional knowledge, and are still learning that knowledge, were also very effective. They were “cool” or as they say now “slay”. They were just as strong for Stz’uminus students seeing the strong base they really have to call upon. The young knowledge keepers are also important, but the strength of the Elders remains the strongest part of our work. We would like to continue to ask in Elders and knowledge keepers. They urge all of us to remain strong.