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Indigenous dinners foster communal spirit

District principal brings cultures together through communal dinners
Indigenous dinners with Sooke School District students, families and community members such as thjis one at SaseenosElementary School have been a great success. (Photo by Jon Carr)

There’s something about simply sitting down to break bread with family and friends that has a universal appeal for all cultures.

Jon Carr has taken that concept to a higher, more inclusive place with dinners and events that bring students and families from local First Nations together with local community members.

Carr is in his first full year as district principal of the Na’tsa’maht Indigenous Team with Sooke School District, following tenures as a principal, vice-principal, and elementary, middle, secondary and post-secondary teacher. His Indigenous roots include Cree-Metis from Treaty 4, and he is a member of the Metis Nation of B.C. and the Metis Nation of Greater Victoria.

The dinners were created as part of the four posts of the school district, which include the Pacheedaht, T’Sou-ke, Sc’ianew, and Metis First Nations of Greater Victoria.

“They took on a different flavour when we restarted,” Carr explained regarding the dinners, which were on held during the pandemic. “In the spirit of the previous events, the team co-created a new vision that welcomed different Indigenous partners. We had six Indigenous dinner events this year, plus and an Indigenous graduation and a new tri-district Grade 12 celebration at Camp Thunderbird on T’Sou-ke land.”

The dinners included an Urban Indigenous Dinner through a partnership with Journeys of the Heart and Hujlitan Family and Community Services. It featured a meal catered by a local First Nation parent and a student drum group with elder Gramma Clifton performing four songs.

The Pacheedaht Nation hosted a visit to the Pacheedaht Health Centre to meet and connect with Pacheedaht families, followed by a meal attended by 80 people, families and children and catered by Stan Jones.

“The majority of (Sooke School District) students are living in urban areas and not in their home communities,” Carr said.

Amanda Hamilton, education and youth manager for Pacheedaht Nation, said it was an amazing evening.

“A bunch of (Sooke School District) staff drove all the way up to Pacheedaht First Nation and shared a meal while meeting with students and families in the community,” Hamilton said.

More than 200 people attended Sc’ianew Nation Dinner at Hans Helgesen School in Metchosin.

“The evening began with the guests gathered in the school’s learning forest to witness a powerful honour with the gifting of a name for the school’s new shed and learning forest,” Carr said.

“S’cainew Nation gifted the school Pakki Chipps’ traditional name, Tlachaht. Henry Chipps shared the event in honour of his late wife, who adored the outdoors, plants, and everything the forest represents.”

Elder Shirley Alphonse performed a blessing and invited others to partake in the salmon donated by Sc’inanew Nation.

Members from T’Sou-ke Nation prepared a feast, and Grandma Lavina Charles was honoured with a song for her 20 years of teaching the SENCOTEN language in the district.

Carr had high praise for two young Hans Helgesen students who are dancers with the Esquimalt Singers and Dancers.

“Everyone was captivated with their performance.” he added.

Another dinner by T’Sou-ke Nation at Saseenos Elementary School featured a video of Alphonse’s SENCOTEN language lessons.

“Jennifer Dumont, a pre-school teacher with T’Sou-ke Nation, co-created the video,” Carr said. “Dinner guests learned numbers 1 to 10 and a variety of local animals,” Carr said.

Alphonse was presented with a blanket and gifts made by the students.

“It was a wonderful evening reconnecting with others, sharing in a delicious meal,” said Brandy Daniels, a cultural youth worker with T’Sou-ke Nation. “And watching elder Shirley warmed my heart. What a great sense of belonging, let’s do it again soon!”

“Everything has been a communal effort and my own personal passion for bringing people together,” Carr said.

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Chief Russ Chipps, Sc’ianew elder Henry Chipps, Dr. Shirley Alphonse, a SENCOTEN language teacher an elder, T’Sou-ke elder Jackie DeYaeger, T’Sou-ke councillor Rose Dumont, Jon Carr, Na’tsa’maht Indigenous Team principal with Sooke School District, and Metis Victoria elder Kookum Jo-Ina Young welcomed everyone to the Indigenous dinner in Sooke. (Photo by Chris Henry)
Elders Dr. Shirley Alphonse and Lavina Charles share a smile at the indigenous dinner at Saseenos Elementary School. (Photo by John Carr)

About the Author: Rick Stiebel

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