A high school student at Fort St. James Secondary School organized a two-day cultural event recently to increase awareness about indigenous culture and traditions.
Jacob Bird, a grade 11 student from Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation said he wanted to organize the event at the high school as he felt indigenous students seem to be losing touch with their language and culture.
“I just wanted to bring more cultural events to the school. There is never really anything that happens in the school for our culture and I want to bring some of that back into the school. I feel like it just needed to happen,” Bird said.
During the two-day event, Bird had multiple events planned including a talk by an Elder from Tachie about medicines and traditional uses of plants. He got indigenous speakers to talk about different traditions and languages and some used games to interact with kids as well.
On the second day of the event, Bird said they had a grand entry during the school’s assembly at the gym where there was drumming and singing.
“We had Desiree Sampson a student of LDSS in Burns Lake, come and dance. After the dance I had elementary students from Nak’albun Elementary School come and play drums and sing and they did four songs and the reason I wanted to bring them in is to show that there are other places besides the high school to learn the traditional songs,” Bird said.
Craig Houghton, principal of the high school said every one from the school was involved in the event.
“This program that Jacob put together was a hundred percent self initiated. It wasn’t for a course, he wasn’t paid, it wasn’t part of a volunteer program. He just came to me in late March and said ‘I want to put a cultural event in school as we need it.’ He said there is too many First Nation kids and they need to be connected with their traditional culture and I said, yeah you bet,” Houghton said.
Bird worked for a couple of months to set the event up and Houghton said towards the end of the ceremony on the closing day, there was an adult drumming group present.
“They called Jacob up and in centre of the assembly of the gym. They made a circle around him and sang a Chief’s honour song for Jacob. It was unbelievable,” Houghton said adding, “Jacob is a very charismatic young man with incredible leadership potential.”
Bird said he wants to repeat the event next year as well and is hoping he can make it happen twice in 2020.