Doing What’s Best for Kids

FMPSD's Dene Hand Games Promotes Cultural Diversity and Inclusion

Posted on: General News

(Fort McMurray, AB - November 17th, 2023) Fort McMurray Public School Division (FMPSD) Dene Hand Games events have become a staple in the region's calendar. These festive events have attracted a growing interest, with many schools and students enthusiastic about participating in the games and celebrating Dene culture. The Dene Hand Games, with their exciting mix of deception, skill, and luck, represent a unique opportunity for students to learn about the traditional games that have been played by the Dënesųłinë́ in Northern Canada and Alaska for centuries.

One of the most significant achievements of the FMPSD's Dene Hand Games initiative is its success in promoting cultural diversity and inclusion. The initiative has created a more welcoming school environment by providing an engaging educational experience that emphasizes the importance of Dene culture. The events are characterized by a festive atmosphere, with traditional Dene drumming and dancing adding to the celebrations. These festivities not only shed light on the Dene Hand Games but also provide an opportunity for Indigenous students to share their culture with their non-Indigenous peers.

The success of the FMPSD's Dene Hand Games initiative can be attributed to the numerous individuals who have invested their time and effort into making the events possible. The efforts of former staff member Angela Woods and Knowledge Keeper Elissa Whiteknife, supported by Matthew Shewchuk, Nazia Hiscock, Shirley-Ann Oldnall, and Brad St. Denis, serve as a testament to the hard work and dedication behind the initiative. Through their efforts, Dene Hand Games are now accessible to all schools within the FMPSD region.

The events have continued to grow with each passing year. The inaugural Dene Hand Games tournament, held last year, saw 12 out of 16 schools come together to compete. It was held at the Syncrude Sports and Wellness Centre, which donated space and provided support throughout the day, making it a community endeavour. Due to high interest and the large number of teams who participated in the games, the tournament has been extended to two days this year – one for elementary students and one for junior and senior high students.

Organizer Matthew Shewchuk highlights the joy of introducing the games to students and fostering a connection with Elders and Knowledge Keepers. 

"Promoting Hand Games and engaging with a diverse audience in celebrating Indigenous culture is truly incredible."

As Dene Hand Games events are part of a year-long festival, additional days are dedicated to playing the games and celebrating Indigenous culture. The initiative's growth is evident in the number of schools willing to travel to Fort McKay to participate in their Hand Games tournament. For many students, the Dene Hand Games events represent more than just a game; they express their heritage, culture and identity.

FMPSD's Dene Hand Games initiative has been a resounding success. The Dene Hand Games events have gained momentum over the years, and their popularity continues to grow. The initiative has allowed us to celebrate Indigenous culture, history, and traditions while creating a more inclusive and welcoming school community. The Dene Hand Games events are more than just games; they celebrate the rich heritage and culture of the Dene people. As the initiative expands, it promises to unite more students, promoting a better understanding and appreciation of Indigenous culture and traditions.

For additional information, contact:

Momin Syed                                                           
Communications Coordinator
Fort McMurray Public School Division