Doing What’s Best for Kids

FMPSD Celebrates Indigenous Culture with a Night of Learning and Connection

Posted on: General News

(Fort McMurray, AB - April 8th, 2024) On the evening of March 26th, the Fort McMurray Public School Division (FMPSD) took a significant step towards cultural appreciation and education with its Indigenous Learning Night. Held at Dave McNeilly Public School, the event welcomed over 130 attendees into an immersive experience of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit cultures.

The night commenced with a blessing from respected Elder Lorraine Albert, setting a tone of reverence and community. In this act of traditional spirituality, the space was infused with goodwill. The event was given a heartening start, a nod to the importance of blessings in Indigenous culture and a sign of respect for the traditional land where we are situated.

One of the highlights of the evening was Elder Cecile Calliou's moving drum song. Accompanied by her grandson Hunter, the rhythms created by their drums resonated deeply with the participants, symbolizing the heartbeat of Mother Earth and connecting the audience with an integral part of Indigenous music and ceremony.

Lyndon Suntjens, hailing originally from Goodfish Lake First Nation and currently working for Edmonton Public School Division, introduced attendees to the rich world of Indigenous games. More than just entertainment, these games teach valuable skills such as teamwork, endurance, and the traditional survival techniques necessary for thriving in natural environments. Through these engaging activities, people of all ages gained insight into the physical wisdom preserved within Indigenous cultures.

Goota Desmarais, originally from Cape Dorset, Nunavut, and currently living in St. Alberta,  shared Inuit teachings that painted a vivid picture of life in the Arctic. Her stories and lessons provided a unique perspective on the Inuit way of life, connecting participants to the rich traditions, resourcefulness, and adaptability of the Inuit people.

Claire Antoine, originally from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, and currently living in Fort McMurray, contributed to the night's theme of learning and growth with her presentations on the traditional medicines of the Métis, Dene, and Cree peoples. This session illuminated the deep connection Indigenous cultures have with nature, highlighting the knowledge passed down through generations regarding the healing properties of the land.

The Indigenous Learning Night emphasized the importance of cultural understanding and education in fostering inclusivity and respect for all peoples. By sharing traditions and knowledge across a tapestry of Indigenous cultures right in the heart of a school setting, FMPSD educated its attendees and celebrated the vibrant diversity that defines Canada.

Superintendent Annalee Nutter reflects on the significance of the event. 

"In our work to continue to develop relationships with our Indigenous Families and community members, and in the spirit of reconciliation, we wanted to bring everyone together for an evening where we could interact, learn together and celebrate culture. There was a lot of positive feedback from parents, and I believe the event was a huge success. We look forward to being able to do this again in the future. Thank you to Dave McNeilly Public School for hosting and to Chantille Hackett, Dave Parsons and Rose Brophy for helping with set-up and clean-up."

Initiatives like the Indigenous Learning Night exemplify FMPSD's dedication to Truth and Reconciliation. By providing a platform for Indigenous leaders to share their heritage and promoting a participative approach to cultural education, the division is actively contributing to the nationwide reconciliation movement.

The success of the Indigenous Learning Night at Dave McNeilly Public School is a testament to the Fort McMurray community's eagerness to learn about and honour Indigenous peoples' rich cultural heritage. With such gatherings, FMPSD steps forward on the continuous path of understanding, respect, and joint community growth.

For additional information, contact:

Momin Syed                                                           
Communications Coordinator
Fort McMurray Public School Division