April 13, 2017 · 8:15 AM

ABORIGINAL DAY - Noah Baptiste of Red Deer Aboriginal Dance Troop visited C.P. Blakely for the school’s First Nations Celebration Day. / PHOTOS BY TODD COLIN VAUGHAN/ SYLVAN LAKE NEWS

C.P. Blakely Elementary School held their annual First Nations Celebration Day - an event which has become a 10 year tradition at the school.

“We are having our First Nations Celebration Day,” Grade 4 Teacher Jen Pfaff said. “It is a day for all of our Grade 4s to get together and celebrate aboriginal culture with the Red Deer Aboriginal Dance Troop. We have done lots of work learning how to make bannock, learning how to bead, learning about leathers and different skins as well as learning a bit about the drumming. We also learned about the regalia that the dancers wear, the dance troop came in and helped out with that this morning.”

The relationship between C.P. Blakely and the Red Deer Aboriginal Dance Troop is one that has been nurtured over the course of many years.

“They are sharing their culture and giving us some insight into First Nations,” Grade 4 Teacher Norm Yee said. “They are showing why the dance is important and are sharing different interpretations of the dance.”

He added, “we’ve had many dancers return every year and they always invite the kids to join in on the dance and share in the culture. We have built a long-term relationship with Red Deer Aboriginal Dance Troop and they say they enjoy coming to our school.”

The day of celebration is a fun way for C.P. students and dancers to share the hard work they have done throughout the year learning about aboriginal culture.

“The Grade 4 curriculum is all about Alberta and what makes Alberta unique,” Pfaff said. “The aboriginal culture is part of that. We use that as a template to grow and learn with our aboriginal friends. This day is really important to our Grade 4s and it has been a tradition here at C.P. to have First Nations Day.”

Yee added, “with Chinook’s Edge School Division, we call the unit FNMI - which is First Nations, Metis and Inuit - so there is quite a bit of focus on that. We try as teachers to ensure students are informed about First Nations in Canada.”

The day has been fondly remembered by many former students of C.P. Blakely.

“We had a former student of ours share that this was the best day of their elementary school,” Pfaff said. “It is very important.”

The afternoon of dancing has always been the highlight of the event, with members of the Red Deer Aboriginal Dance Troop recognizing the work of these students.

“They have always pointed out how respectful our kids are,” Yee said.

This respectfulness stems from C.P. exposing their students to aboriginal culture.

“The more we can teach and expose our students to different cultures, including First Nations, the better,” Pfaff said. “It makes us better people to experience and learn hands-on.”

Pfaff added that the day wouldn’t be possible without the help of many others.

“Ms. Janet, our librarian, has been a big advocate for this day and has been a big help for it,” she said. “A lot of credit goes to her, as the tradition stems from her.”

Yee added, “there is a lot of people behind the scenes that help out with this day.”