A large ‘Every Child Matters’ banner was unveiled at Lax Kxeen Elementary School, on Sept. 20, as a visual representation of truth and reconciliation changes occurring in School District 52.
The banner displaying Txa’nii k’aba̱ tgüüłga łikłut’iksit, Sm’alygax for every child matters, was blessed at the afternoon ceremony by hereditary chief Alex Campbell. Banners will hang at every school in the district.
Andrew Samoil, Superintendent of SD 52, said the curriculum supports reconciliation in many aspects and activities.
“There’s an awareness now … You’ll find from kindergarten through to Grade 12, that in the curriculum now is that honouring and respect for where we are on Tsimshian territory,” Samoil said. “You’ll see history lessons, you’ll see students doing maps and talking about the place names in Sm’alygax and what’s behind that name … and talk about culture and what does that mean.”
However, parents need to do more to teach Sm’alygax to the next generation of students, Campbell said because parents don’t know the language at all.
Also, in attendance was Ben Spencer, a Kitkatla house leader, who addressed the children, teachers and staff in attendance. Campbell and Spencer are the only two fluent speakers of Sm’alygax in SD 52.
Both men recounted some of the experiences they and their parents went through in Canadian residential schools and Indian day schools.
“We weren’t allowed to speak our language. I was fortunate enough that my grandparents on both sides spoke the language, but they were still afraid that somebody might catch them teaching us … ” Spencer said.
“We’re the only two in the school district, right now, and there’s nobody behind us. If anything ever happened to either one of us what are you going to do,” Spencer said. “… with the parents that claim to know the language, they should come out. Help us. Our doors are always open to anyone that comes in.”
Many of the recent changes in the education system have been a good start to reconciliation, Spencer said, because of the way this generation of children has changed.
“Now, students are coming up to both Mr. Campbell and I and asking questions about residential schools. They’re starting to ask, but before they never used to,” Spencer said.
Children and parents in SD 52 can find indigenous language resources, as well as Spencer and Campbell, at Wa̱p Sig̱atgyet, meaning House of Building Strength in Sm’alygax, at 317 9th Avenue.
Norman Galimski | Journalist
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