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Historic day in Enderby as schools commemorate Truth and Reconciliation

First time all three local schools partake in same program; teen founder National Ribbon Skirt Day talks

History in regards to National Truth and Reconciliation Day was made and presented in Enderby Thursday, Sept. 28.

Students from Splatsin’s Shihiya School, M.V. Beattie Elementary and A.L. Fortune Secondary School did a Truth and Reconciliation awareness walk from Fortune to the Splatsin Community Centre. At the centre, the students listened to a presentation from a history-making teenager, and participated in a banner-making activity to show support and recognition for the national holiday Sept. 30.

It’s the first time, said event organizer Nerissa Joseph, that the three Enderby schools have done any kind of program together.

“If that’s not truth and reconciliation, I don’t know what is,” said Joseph to the estimated crowd of 400 students and staff at the Splatsin Community Centre.

The guest of honour for the morning was Isabella Kulak, 13, of the Cote First Nation near Kamsack, a town in Saskatchewan close to the Manitoba border, about 60 kilometres northeast of Yorkton.

Kulak is the young woman responsible for National Ribbon Skirt Day, now held every Jan. 4. A ribbon skirt is worn by Indigenous women at cultural events as a show of pride. In December 2020, Kulak wore hers as part of a formal school day. She was told by a staff member that her skirt wasn’t considered formal enough.

Kulak’s story was spread online, and a wave of support saw women and men wearing their ribbon skirts and shirts walk Kulak to school in January. People from around the world also began posting social media photos of themselves wearing ribbon skirts as a way to honour their identity.

At the ceremony Thursday, Kulak was wearing another ribbon skirt – she brought the original that started the movement to show the students – and so were mom, Lana, and four of her six sisters who accompanied Kulak on the trip west. Kulak’s dad, Chris, was wearing a colourful long sleeve shirt. The seven Kulak sisters range in age from four to 18.

The family was drummed into the Splatsin Community Centre by students from A.L. Fortune, led by retired Indigenous support worker Dodie Jones.

The first National Ribbon Skirt Day was marked Jan. 4 of this year.

“Isabella’s story shone a light on the enduring injustices, racism, and discrimination faced by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis in Canada every day, and on the importance of the role we all have to play in making sure that what happened never happens again to anyone in Canada,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement at the time.

Splatsin education director Darrell Jones welcomed everyone to the gathering, saying Good Morning in the traditional Splatsin language.

READ MORE: Vernon schools support Orange Shirt Day with design competition

READ MORE: School staff make space for Indigenous stories in Vernon

Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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