Learning for our future leaders
By Tricia Thomas
In the past, a Coast Salish child learned by watching and experiencing day-to-day life within the family. His or her unique talents became apparent to the community as the child took part in hunting, fishing, gathering, preserving foods, weaving, carving, storytelling, dancing, drumming and healing. That recognition gave the child a sense of identity and purpose about what role to play in the community.
Today our children learn about themselves and the enormous world around them by, among other things, going to school. A growing number of schools are incorporating cultural activities and lessons into the curriculum, and showing more acceptance for the differences of First Nations students. We’ve come a long way from Residential School.
Studies have shown that students who have a sense of personal and cultural identity have the greatest success at school. Young children, who have been around cultural activities, heard a native language and spent time with elders, will always remember the spiritual connection they have with their heritage. Those influences are important, whether received at home or in preschool Head Start or early learning immersion programs.
Parents are the first teachers. We have to start early to honour our children’s spirits, naming the qualities we see in them and modeling the universal values we want to encourage, such as kindness, honesty and respect. It isn’t long before peer pressure becomes a powerful motivating force for the growing child.
We congratulate all Aboriginal children and youth who are continuing or about to embark on their studies at school, college, university or in training programs. We hope you can open your minds to the teachings while continuing to embrace your culture and share who you are as a Coast Salish person.
We encourage you to find your own unique skills and gifts, and to carry your learning forward in your community. We honour you on your learning path. You are our future leaders.