Learning about BC's First Peoples

The Grade 4 classes have been studying Native culture in British Columbia as part of their Social Studies curriculum. As part of their learning, the class went to the Quw’utsun’ Cultural Centre in Duncan last Monday.

The Quw’utsun’ Cultural Centre is a world-class destination, focusing on the economic development of the Cowichan people. The goal of the centre is to promote pride in Native culture and offer an authentic First Nations experience through interpretive tours, traditional artwork and Native cuisine.

Grade 4 student Kennedy had this to say about the trip:
“When we got to the Cultural Center we met our tour guide. His name was Wilson. Wilson showed us totem poles. Each totem pole had its own story and each one had three different animals. Wilson shared many stories which he learned from his ancestors. Then we watched a movie about the great deeds of the Cowichan tribe and the importance of the Potlatch. After the movie we did a craft called pony beading. When it was time to go we said thank you to Wilson, who was a great guide. We learned many interesting facts that we didn’t know before.”

Then on Thursday, both Grade 4 classes met in the library with Leslie McGarry, a member of the Kwaguilth Band of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation. Ms. McGarry is from the Victoria Native Friendship Centre and tries to raise awareness and understanding of First Nations people by visiting schools to discuss West-Coast Native culture.

There are approximately 5,500 people on northern Vancouver Island who live and make up the Kwakwaka’wakw Indigenous Nation. Kwakwaka’wakw means “speaking tribes.” Their language is now spoken by less than five per cent of their population (about 250 people). The people are known for their history, culture and art. In recent years, the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation has been active in the revitalization of their culture and language.

Two students contribute these comments about Ms. McGarry’s visit:
“Today Leslie McGarry came to talk to us. She taught us about Potlatch and what it means. We also learned how to make a potlatch pouch. The pouch had a white button on it. Leslie told us that only chiefs could host potlatches and had to have a copper. A copper is sort of like a shield. When the chiefs dance, they carry their copper with them.”

Sean Currie

“Today Leslie McGarry came to talk to us and make a craft. We made a craft called a medicine pouch. Our medicine pouch was a combination of a real medicine pouch and a button blanket. We used red felt, cut-out black felt, black slithery string, a needle and red thread, and a button. It is related to a button blanket because of the colours and the button. It is related to a medicine pouch because it is shaped like a pouch. She talked to us about Potlatches and their traditions and very strict rules. We learned a lot and we all had fun!”

Sun-Eui Choi


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here