BONNYVILLE – Although classes have been cancelled on Sept. 30 in recognition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, students at École Notre Dame High School celebrated Orange Shirt Day a day early.
Split into two separate assemblies and wearing varying shades of orange, Notre Dame students listened and learned about the history and struggles faced by Indigenous Peoples from two performers from Frog Lake First Nations.
Artists Eric Faithful and Zane Wade from the musical singing and drumming group Young Spirit, shared their personal experiences and what it was like to grow up as a “Native kid in Canada.” The duo also shared cultural practices and their significance.
Wade explained to students why he wears a ribbon shirt, what it represents and the difference between smudging with sweet grass and Buffalo sage.
"This ribbon shirt represents and connects me to all First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples across Turtle Island – all across Canada," he said.
Faithful told students of the deep connection between a drummer and his drum. The customs behind painting the face of the drum and the next step for a drum's lifecycle when its hide has been torn from the beats it has carried in its lifetime.
Both artists shared with the audience their journey and the challenges they have faced in reclaiming their heritage and culture. Unique cultures were almost eradicated due to the forced attendance of Indian Residential Schools of First Nations People, they explained to students.
“If you have questions speak to Elders,” said Faithful. “Somebody knows somebody who knows an Elder. They are our knowledge keepers for our culture.”
Partway through the assembly, students had the chance to get up and move to the beat of Cree round dance songs, sung and performed by Faithful and Wade.
In a large circle, students side stepped to the song Dance with Me.
Faithful explained, the beat of the song replicates the beat of the heart and is often played at weddings and celebrations to mark unity.
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