Cold Lake Art Smith Aviation Academy honours National Indigenous Peoples Day

Madison Strong, the coordinator of Indigenous Day activities and a Grade 4 English teacher, shared insights into the event.

“We've been doing it for the last three years. I would say our principal was the first kind of push to start this day and we formed a committee. Our first day was quite big, like we did an opening ceremony, invited people from the base, and had lots of elders come from Cold Lake First Nations to help us out. We took a lot of the teachings that day to apply and continue this,” Strong explained.

The event featured various activities for students.

“They get to rotate through and see everything. Today, we're lucky to have some dancers coming. The whole school will get together as an assembly to watch the dancers and then finish up on their activities this afternoon,” said Strong. “We’ve made our groups so they’re mixed grades. So, we've got some little ones and some bigger helpers so we can all work together and support each other.”

Students engaged in activities such as Indigenous storybooks, crafts, and traditional games. One popular activity was the run and scream stick game.

“Kids decorate a stick, then race while screaming, placing their stick down where they run out of breath. They love it because it’s not often kids at school get to run and scream with sticks in their hands,” Strong said.

Art Smith Aviation Academy principal Andrea Farrell spoke to students as they gathered int he gym.

“You can see we have some very honoured guests as we celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day. This is part of our mission and our staff and communities' walk towards reconciliation. We're all working together to right the wrongs of the past and acknowledge the importance of this day.”

Shannon McGillivray, one of the dancers shared her excitement about the day.

“Today, with my niece Ola and my family, we’re showcasing our dance styles. We have women’s fancy, men’s grass, and women’s jingle dances. We’re excited to share this with everyone.”

The dancers from Saddle Lake, Goodfish Lake, and Cold Lake First Nations showcased their traditional dances, inviting all students and teachers to join them in the end, honouring the custom of shared celebration.

Chantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lakeland This Week