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Published by the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation

Manitoba school’s powwow club teaches dance, culture, reconciliation

Posted: 05/23/17 10:43am CST
Photo credit: Jordan Stewart

With music, regalia and a lot of fun, a powwow club in a school just outside Winnipeg is bringing reconciliation into the classroom.

The West St. Paul School club is only in its second year but student involvement has nearly doubled and they will be performing at Manito Ahbee’s international powwow at the RBC Convention Centre on Saturday.

“It’s been a really successful club in our school. The kids are really enjoying it and it’s been very positive,” said Grade 4 teacher Billie Cross.

Cross said bringing the idea of reconciliation into schools is very important. She is Mé​tis but said growing up, she struggled with sharing her identity with others.

“My grandmother used to tell me it’s easier to just tell people you are Ukrainian,” Cross said on CBC Radio’s Weekend Morning Show on Saturday.

“I never really understood why until I was older, but growing up in the North End I saw the stereotypes, I saw how people were treated.”

To her, reconciliation is about helping students find their identity and helping people understand what it means to be Indigenous.

But in the club, Cross said she’s also a student.

“I’ve learned more about my culture, I’ve learned teachings,” she said.

Grade 8 student Michael Esquash Jr. can occasionally be the teacher when it comes to powwow culture. He has danced since he was little and was very excited to learn about his school’s club.

“It means happiness for me and it feels good to just dance and just get with the beat,” he said.

Esquash said it was hard to hear how his teacher felt she needed to hide her Mé​tis roots.

“It’s shocking. I never hide my identity. I kept it super open. I was told I was Native, I was Cree, I was Ojibway and it’s shocking to me that she had to hide it when she was younger,” he said.

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