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The Project Heartsong program, now in its second year, brings
in elders Gerald Gabriel and Martin Thevarge, from Mount Currie and D’Arcy to
teach all students in the school traditional hand drumming, singing and
dancing. Students have learned to make their own drums and there is now a class
set for the children to use.
The project, which is taught within the school’s music program,
has been very successful, according to Signal Hill teacher Doris Zurcher.
“First Nations students are being validated for who they are.
There is a big difference between being able to express your culture, and being
validated for it.”
The goal of the project has been greater cultural awareness
between First Nations students, who come from Mount Currie, D’Arcy and the
Southern Stl’atl’imx Nations near Baptiste Smith, and other cultural groups. Drumming
is now being used to start school assemblies.
“When the drumming begins, the Native children really brighten
up,” continues Zurcher. “This is what some of them hear in their own homes.”
Dave Walden, Chair of the Board of School Trustees for the Howe
Sound School District, is encouraged by the initiatives being made at Signal
Hill to foster cross-cultural awareness.
“Twenty years ago, this would not have happened on such a large
scale,” he says. “Parents would have been much more reluctant to allow their
children to participate in this kind of program. Now at PAC meetings, parents
are open to it and encourage it.
“If we want to have peace in our world, we have to start by
understanding one another,” he says. “I have always believed that change needs
to start in the schools. It isn’t going to solve all our problems but it is a
Chalmers recognizes that much needs to be done. “We have only
been focused on social justice as our guiding principle for the last 18 months
or so. We are at the beginning stages, and the forums were a good starting
point. We got action items out of the discussions.”