SUNDRE — In recognition of National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, the local museum and schools participated in a couple of initiatives.
Members of the Stoney Nakoda Nation — David Bearspaw and family — were invited by Sundre & District Museum volunteer and former social studies teacher Jane Atkins to demonstrate how to set up a traditional Cree-style teepee at the village grounds, located on Treaty 6 and 7 lands.
“The territory the museum stands on is an area that the Stoney Nakoda traversed for many years," Atkins, who serves as vice president on the Sundre & District Historical Society's board of volunteer directors, said by email in response to follow-up questions.
“This is the first time that they have been invited to participate at the museum, that I am aware of,” she said, adding the Bearspaw family was honoured to have been asked to participate.
“The teepee itself is from the Pê Sâkâstêw Centre, which is predominately Cree. We are honoured to have the tipi in our village area and will soon have signage to tell its story.”
There is much to learn from Indigenous people, who lived off of the land, which provided all of their sustenance and essential needs, she said.
“To think of those who walked before us here on the land and the information their stories tell, makes it important for us to learn all that we can.”
Calling the residential school system "a tragedy that should never have happened," Atkins said, “I feel that we need to listen to the stories and understand the grief they have held inside for too many years."
So, from the museum's standpoint, she said steps will be taken to "reach out to all Indigenous people, to have them tell their stories, to help us understand their history and its importance to the Sundre area."
Students as well as staff at River Valley School participated in a collaborative outdoor art mural project called RVS Takes Flight.
The initiative included conservation learning through an Indigenous lens to honour their cultures, said Leslie Cooper-Shand, principal.
“It was a different take on a project we saw from Stream of Dreams, who originally did it with fish,” said Cooper-Shand.
All told, there were more than 550 birds of varying colours — many featuring environmentally conscious messages such as “We will plant trees and other plants” and “We will wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat” — displayed on the fence along the west side of Centre Street.
“We also added 215-plus pairs of shoes, coloured by all students, in memoriam of the residential school tragedies uncovered in recent weeks,” she said, referring to the unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential school that have been revealed by ground-penetrating radar.
Students at Sundre High School had also recently placed some shoes, boots and a teddy bear on the steps leading to the main entrance.