Métis Bev (Beverly Lambert) leads the crowd in the popular ‘floss’ dance at the Shatford Centre as part of the annual School District Métis Family Dinner on Nov. 15. The Métis Nation British Columbia was able to secure funding to bring Lambert to the community to lead workshops about Métis culture in schools. Jordyn Thomson/Western News

South Okanagan Métis step up involvement with school district

The association wants to have more of a role in the inclusion of Métis culture, history in schools

The South Okanagan Similkameen Métis Association is ramping up its efforts to work with Okanagan Skaha School District 67.

The association recently participated in the school district’s annual School District Métis Family Dinner, which has grown in attendance each year noted event emcee and Aboriginal education teacher Dustin Hyde. The event took place on Nov. 15 at the Shatford Centre and saw upwards of 200 people present.

“This is a testament to the cultural pride of Métis people in Penticton. We’re super pleased that this event continues to grow and our numbers continue to blossom,” said Hyde. “It means a lot to us and our school district.”

Related: Video – KVR students explore Métis culture and history

The event served as a chance for Métis families within the school district to learn about Metis programming in schools. Organizers were also able to showcase Métis culture and hear from the Metis Association’s vice president, Terry Kennedy.

“We’ve been in this community since 1996 when it became a chartered community under the governance act of The Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC). So over those years, we have worked to get into the schools to teach Métis history and culture,” said Kennedy. “This has been a very long process, but since the B.C. Ministry of Education incorporated the new curriculum that mandated more kindergarten to Grade 12 aboriginal content — not just First Nation — that has opened the door for us.”

Kennedy said the association was able to secure funding to bring Beverly Lambert, also known as Métis Bev, to the community to run Métis workshops within schools thanks to a grant available through MNBC. Lambert, the cultural ambassador for the B.C. Métis Federation, also attended the dinner and gave a presentation for those in attendance.

Related: Sunrise ceremony at B.C. Legislature honours Louis Riel

Because Métis are not First Nations, their history and culture has often been excluded in school curriculums said Kennedy. While the South Okanagan Similkameen Métis Association does not have say over what the Métis content of the curriculum looks like in SD67, they are starting to see more students embracing their culture and hope that someday they will be active participants in influencing education.

“MNBC has developed a curriculum for Grade 4 though Grade 7, but that’s just an option for teachers to use. It’s not mandatory, but through this new curriculum we’ve been able to do that,” said Kennedy. “We’ve been working with the school district and the district’s Aboriginal Education Council and we sit on a committee, so we can make suggestions but we don’t have a lot of input into what they are doing.”

Related: Penticton athletes receive second Aboriginal award

Kennedy said in order to bring programming, such as Métis Bev and her presentation, into local schools the association must first gain permission from the district principal and then the principal of each school they’d like included.

For the association’s student representative Cayly Martin, a Grade 12 Penticton Secondary School student, the inclusion of Métis programming in B.C. curriculums is imperative for students to understand their background. She became involved with the association when she got her Métis citizenship card two years ago.

“I feel like it’s very important for youth to realize where they came from and to be proud of it. A lot of people say if you’re not Aboriginal, then you can’t be Métis,” said Martin. “Métis is it’s very own thing, we’re not white and we’re not First Nations. It’s completely different and some people look at it badly, so I want to help other youth like myself be proud of who we are and the fact that we are Métis.”

Martin admits she wasn’t very invested in her culture until her father passed away in 2015, which prompted her to become involved and “support his culture and everything he knew and learned.”

“I just wanted to figure out who I was,” said Martin.

As the student representative, Martin is in charge of organizing and attending community events but is mostly there “as support for other youth.”

“It’s such a great thing because I’m still in high school and different youth can always come up to me, ask me questions, they always know that I’m here,” said Martin. “I also attend different board meetings, AGMs, and conferences. It’s all just about helping the youth, because I feel like the culture is being lost and a lot of people forget about where they came from. Knowing where you came from is a big part of growing.”

She said she hopes the inclusion of Métis programming helps “other students really think about where they came from, whether that’s European or anything, just thinking about where they came from and their roots.”

When Martin heads off to university next year, she will step down as the student representative but she said she plans to still be involved with the association.

Overall, Kennedy said they hope in years to come SD67 will see the association as a source of knowledge about Métis culture and history, one that they will actively access to improve and update its curriculum.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter

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