Myrtle Philip Community School SD#48 Sea to Sky

I. General Information

School Name: Myrtle Philip Community School

School District: SD#48 Sea to Sky

Inquiry Team Members: Katrina Lowe:
Jane Millen:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Case Study

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education, Language Arts – Oral Language, Social Studies

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), First Peoples Principles of Learning, Indigenous pedagogy, Land, Nature or Place-based learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Inquiry Question: How can engaging in creating traditional Lil’Wat and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh artifacts, as a whole school, begin us on our journey of decolonization?

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: We have a very low population of students coming from Indigenous ancestry. We want to work with our students to learn about their role as allies and their duties regarding decolonizing this setting. Our student learning survey data has indicated that most students in our school don’t feel that they are being taught the local First Nations language or culture. Judging by the lack of local First Nations artifacts in the school, we agree that this is probably the case. It is our plan to introduce drumming as a practice in our school. When we come together for assemblies and events, we think that it is important to ensure that we are incorporating local First Nations cultural practices and believe that drumming is a good place to start. Plank drums are Lil’Wat and hide drums are Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and our school is on the shared territory of these two nations. We intend to engage in making both types of drums with the help of representatives from both nations, to help us with the drum making and with the art that will adorn them.

Focus: The artists we have chosen are Splash (Aaron Moody Nelson) and Cory Douglas, both are from the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh nation. We are also working with our Indigenous support worker Tanina Williams from the Lil’Wat nation. Splash, Cory, and Tanina have already been working with the teachers at our school to learn about how to teach the honouring of Indigenous art in a way that is not appropriation. We want to work with these three artists so that we have representation from each nation, but also because these artists have been engaged in the work of authentic decolonization for a long time. Students will benefit from learning more about local traditional culture and language through the arts. The students will learn to create drums and about traditional art to put on them, and then will be taught how to use them for celebration.

The school is located on the traditional shared territory of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and Lil’Wat nations. Splash and Cody are Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and Tanina is Lil’Wat. Tokenism has been a common practice: invite the individual to acknowledge territory and call it done. We are growing beyond that by trying to create a creative space to revitalize the presence of both peoples. We are not interested in pan Indigenization or celebrating a culture that is not native to the area in which it is being celebrated. Many Indigenous youth grow up not knowing their own cultural identity and art helps alleviate the stress of this. We can help students through their journey of truth and reconciliation by studying classic art pieces and using that knowledge to create something new by incorporating a part of themselves into the art.

Hunch: When students feel that they belong and have connections to their community at school or in their neighborhoods, they are part of something bigger than themselves.

Our school is a very homogeneous environment. In the entire school we only have five students who identify as being of Indigenous ancestry. Because of the lack of students of Indigenous ancestry in the school, there aren’t a lot of resources allocated here in terms of having access to knowledge-keepers and teachers of traditional ways. The school has become complacent about teaching truth and reconciliation because it is felt to be unnecessary and unsupported in this setting. Sometimes we need to be reminded that what is good for Indigenous youth is good for all, and that even though we may be of settler ancestry we still live in this place and have a duty to learn the truth in order to work towards reconciliation.

New Professional Learning: This year we spent a lot of time going slow. We learned from Splash that we can’t move forward in creating artifacts without first understanding what we are doing and making sure that we are moving forward in a good way. The teachers spent a day listening to both Splash and Cory Douglas speak about ways that they have been tokenized and that artifacts have been culturally appropriated. With these teachers we discovered some ways that we could begin teaching our students cultural art practices in a way that no one would be participating in cultural appropriation.

Taking Action: The artists and the educators will work side by side in this project. The artists will work with the teachers to help them feel prepared to teach the students about cultural appropriation vs honoring traditional art. After the teachers have worked with the artists on a plan, the teachers and the Indigenous support worker will get to work on learning how to and then making the two different types of drums with the students. Plank drums are Lil’Wat and hide drums are Sḵwx̱wú7mesh. After the drums are made, the artists will return to work with the students to facilitate them planning the art that will go on the drums. Finally, the students will paint their drums in a traditional style but incorporate their own personal background. During this project planning process, school staff has consulted with Indigenous support workers, and the artists themselves regarding the best way forward.

Checking: In the land-based art project, the students will find out that by creating traditional artifacts they can connect to the land that they live and learn on. We either do things by default or we do things by design. It is necessary for us to incorporate more of the local protocol into our buildings to move forward in a good way towards truth and reconciliation. Educators will begin to unpack how to help students move forward in learning about local Indigenous art processes and how to honor these processes without engaging in cultural appropriation. Teachers will help students to learn about the concept of cultural appropriation and the damage it has done to Indigenous communities. Educators will learn that in order to move forward with reconciliation, that we will have to take risks and be willing to be called out on our mistakes so that we can grow and become better humans, allies, and educators. Students will engage in learning about cultural appropriation, as well as other aspects of reconciliation. The Indigenous support worker will facilitate the process of two different styles of drum making as well as assisting in teaching traditional art styles. The artists will work with the students in the classroom to learn to work with the land to create paints, get inspiration, and learn from the land on which we live and learn. Finally, when the drums are finished the students will learn about ceremony and protocol, as well as traditional singing, drumming, and dancing from both nations.

Reflections/Advice: We have learned that in order to do the work properly we have to be thoughtful and cautious. We have learned that we are going to make mistakes along the way and that we may get called out for these mistakes and that’s ok. We have to learn how to feel the discomfort of the uncertainty that comes with working towards truth and reconciliation. The worst thing we can do is do nothing because we are afraid to make mistakes, and the next worst thing we can do is to be offended for being called out on the mistakes that we do make. Indigenous knowledge-keepers need a way to hold the people of settler ancestry that they work with accountable and can’t be afraid to hurt feelings when something isn’t done according to protocol. None of us have arrived; we all have work to do and keeping this in mind is the only thing that will allow us to move forward with both truth and reconciliation.