June 13th, 2024

Indigenous games night sparks fun in education

By Justin Sibbet - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on June 9, 2023.

Herald photo by Justin Sibbet FNMI support worker Kendrick Fox leads participants in a 'hoop and arrow' game as part of an Indigenous celebration on Wednesday at Catholic Central High School.

As the years pass, traditions can be lost and forgotten without continuous education and involvement from members of the community.

As a result, Holy Spirit Catholic School Division held its second annual Indigenous celebration to wrap up the semester.

This celebration included a traditional Blackfoot prayer, dinner and several Indigenous games known to have been played in this area for centuries.

The event kicked off Wednesday evening and was led by Kendrick Fox, a First Nations, Metis, Inuit support worker for Father Leonard Van Tighem School and St. Joseph School.

He says this is just the second year in which the event has been held in this fashion, as it used to be a more traditional powwow.

However, Fox says many individuals were unable to truly participate in the previous powwows, so the school division aimed to bring forward a more inclusive end-of-year celebration.

“The thing we found with powwows, was not everybody was involved, because not everybody knows how to drum, not everybody knows how to dance,” said Fox.

He says the school division wanted to bring together accessible traditional Indigenous games with a family gathering.

Fox says this search began with a group of educators in Montana who started looking into forgotten Indigenous games to bring back into the modern school system.

“These games were actually sleeping,” said Fox. “They were no longer played.”

He says the games were largely lost due to the residential school system, but there were still people who understood the rules and nature of the games.

This led school districts, like the Holy Spirit, to educate and certify staff to allow them to teach the games to students.

“I think I just became the unofficial person who remembered everything because this was one of my passions,” said Fox.

He says some of the games are dated back thousands of years to the Napi stories, solidifying the history and culture of the Blackfoot people.

Furthermore, he says the inclusion of games will help the younger generations understand their own history and culture.

“I know how it feels to be that young and not know how our people were, like how we lived,” said Fox.

He also says the beauty of these games comes from the simple fact that there are homegrown in this area.

“It’s almost like bringing back to life a flower that’s been extinct for a while,” said Fox.

Another individual involved in the event was Billy Woitte, an Indigenous student wellness access guide for the Holy Spirit Catholic School Division.

She says this type of an event means a lot for her and her peers.

“It means connection, it means companionship, it means just being connected to the land and to our culture,” said Woitte.

She says the celebration was a great opportunity for those interested in Blackfoot culture to meet one another in a fun environment.

“Families just coming out, meeting one another, being out in nature is very grounding,” said Woitte.

Furthermore, she says the games taught during this event showcased the idea of working with whatever nature gives you.

“You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars or be in front of a screen,” said Woitte. “It’s very easy, even on a nature walk, that you can find all these supplies that you would need for these games.”

Both Woitte and Fox say they hope this event continues year after year.

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