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The month of June is National Indigenous History Month, and Surrey Schools is honouring the profound history, culture and heritage of our Indigenous peoples in Surrey, White Rock, Barnston Island and across Canada.
Surrey and White Rock are on the shared, unceded, traditional territory of the Katzie (Chief Grace George), Semiahmoo (Chief Harley Chappell) and Kwantlen (Chief Marilyn Gabriel) Nations, and other Coast Salish Peoples. The district has about 3,100 Aboriginal students from these First Nations as well as many others, including Squamish, Gitxsan, Haida, Inuit, Métis, Cree and Mi'kmaw.
Lyn Daniels, Director of Instruction for Aboriginal Learning, said it is amazing to see the diversity in our student population, considering it was once illegal for Indigenous people to gather, not so long ago in history.
"The fact that we can gather together and express ourselves as Indigenous people and celebrate that we have been here and will continue to be here, that is really a feeling of satisfaction and beauty and peace," she said. "I always feel connected to other Indigenous people even though I don't know them, because I know we've been through a lot and it's a shared history.
"We are diverse people with diverse languages and cultures, but we understand we've experienced many of hardships and struggles together, and we're coming through it."
2021 marks the 12th anniversary of National Indigenous History Month, created in 2009 in a unanimous motion in the House of Commons. June 21 also marks National Indigenous Peoples Day, to recognize the contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to Canadian history and diversity.
As part of the B.C. school curriculum, Indigenous history and culture are referenced in every subject and grade level, from social studies to language arts to science. Additionally, many schools across the district showcase Indigenous artwork, such as welcome poles, murals and paddle carvings that encourage and celebrate a strong and important connection to Indigenous roots.
Juanita Coltman, Principal for Aboriginal Learning, said while these observances are important, it's also integral for schools to continue to incorporate Indigenous history into daily lesson plans, recognizing that Indigenous history is foundational to our lives.
"It's not about learning about Indigenous people for one day or one month, it's about learning about the culture and history every day," she said. "It's something we should always be doing, and teachers are embracing that in bringing more content into the classroom."