Rocky Mountain School District No. 6 is currently reaching out to all Elders and Knowledge Keepers who would like to share their knowledge within both a high school and elementary school setting in and outside the classroom. Those interested in sharing can commit to time frames of one hour in the morning or afternoon, or, if desired, are invited to present for the full day.
“Elders and Knowledge Keepers are important members of the Indigenous communities within Rocky Mountain School District 6 as well as important members of the community as a whole,” says Superintendent Karen Shipka. “For this reason, schools have been encouraging the participation of Elders and Knowledge Keepers in many school-based activities: some curricular and some extracurricular.”
Shipka shares that, during the last two years, schools have not been open to visitors and the community due to COVID-19. With restrictions now lifted, they wish to reintroduce the important roles that Elders and Knowledge Keepers have played in the lives of students and staff at schools in the past.
“The role of Elders in the school has been a deep loss to students during the time of pandemic restrictions,” says Superintendent Shipka. “The roles these important individuals play is varied and different depending upon the setting. However, I can say that students and staff benefit from the deep wisdom and Indigenous perspectives offered through the involvement of Elders and Knowledge Keepers in schools”.
To have that presence back after such a long hiatus is a goal for the near future, shares Monica Fisher, President of the Métis Association and support worker in the Indigenous Education program at David Thompson Secondary School. Considering the location of Rocky Mountain School District No. 6 — on the unceded territories of the Secwépemc and Ktunaxa People and on the land chosen as home by the Métis Peoples of B.C. which runs along the Columbia River — it is beyond important to share the land’s history with our future generations.
“With School District 6 we are working towards getting a Knowledge Keeper’s Council, it’s a priority to get them along with Elders back in the classrooms,” says Fisher. “It’s obviously been difficult due to COVID, and our number one priority has been keeping our community safe. but hopefully by September we’ll have a good time and place to have them in our schools. It is something that is on a wishlist. It’s just about finding individuals who are comfortable and that want to come to the schools. We welcome their presence even in the school to simply even come and have tea, as there are a lot of natural learning and teaching opportunities there.”
All applications for this opportunity with the Rocky Mountain School District No. 6 are part of an internal confidential process. Honorariums will be provided to those who take part. While more are encouraged to apply, Fisher shares it is often already existing relationships that bring Knowledge Keepers to share their life experience with both staff and students.
“This is something that is not only so beneficial to our youth, but also to our Elders and Knowledge Keepers, as it may be healing some of the relationships for them within the education system and recognizing the change and that there is trust and really positive healthy relationships happening,” says Fisher. “It brings a form of health and confidence and purpose. Contributing to the greater community always makes people feel good, but it’s important to recognize that we all have gifts that we can share. It doesn't have to be university credits, but it can be knowledge on how to make pine needle baskets or do beading, storytelling, or just sharing.”
Sharing some of the amazing work that will happen in the future with Elders and Knowledge Keepers as they give the benefits of their lived experience with students, is something the School District looks forward to.
Chadd Cawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer