Every two years the First Nations Spring Festival celebrates the Nuu-chah-nulth educational component in the Alberni School District. (Denise Titian photo)
Hundreds of people gathered at Alberni District Secondary School May 18 to celebrate First Nations culture and programs the students have been involved in over the past two years.
The school district covers all public schools in Port Alberni and includes elementary and high schools in Bamfield, Tofino and Ucluelet.
The festival featured displays of work that each school is doing in First Nations education. There were tables that featured crafts, art and language. The festival included a light lunch of free deer stew, salmon soup and bannock. Meanwhile, outside the cafeteria, students from John Howitt Elementary School challenged students from other schools to a lively game of lahal on the ADSS patio.
Lahal is a guessing game that includes singing and drumming. It fit perfectly with Dr. George Clutesi's 1949 quote, “We are a happy, singing people,” that was printed on the program cover.
According to Nuu-chah-nulth Education Worker (NEW) Tamiko Rampanen who works out of Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni, the festival is an opportunity to showcase all of the work that the school staff and students have been doing in terms of Aboriginal culture.
During evening presentations in the auditorium, AW Neill co-principal Darrin Olsen announced that 800 new language books have been printed and delivered to the school district. Described as the book translation project, the new books help children learn the Nuu-chah-nulth language and were created through a partnership between NEDC, New Relationship Trust, Strong Nations and fluent Nuu-chah-nulth speakers.
The new books are an exciting new addition to the districts' growing supply of teaching tools for Aboriginal culture.
Later that evening the children of SD70 gathered on the stage for the first official performance of their new song, generously donated by Tseshaht parent, Aaron Watts. The song was given a new name, which, according to NEW Deb Masso, was selected through a district-wide contest. The winning title, “We are Strong,” was selected because it speaks to the message of the song, sung in the Nuu-chah-nulth language.
Like a mini-potlatch, the rest of the evening was filled with singing and dancing performances by several classes and age groups in the district.