By Mamta Lulla
Bare Icebi which translates to Gathering Together in the Stoney language aims to educate Tri-Regioners on Indigenous culture.
The group aims to build capacity and has representation from 22 Parkland School Division schools.
TJ Skalski group member and Parkland School Division Indigenous Education facilitator said there were 50 people who showed up at the first gathering when the group started in April this year.
“That spoke volumes to show us there are others who see the value and the importance of this work,” she said referring to expanding the community’s understanding of Indigenous culture.
The supports PSD schools as well as Evergreen Catholic Outreach and Paul First Nations.
The group started with the changing direction from Alberta Education wanting to focus more on Canadian history and Indigenous culture. The group was also formed keeping the new recommendations in mind from Alberta Teachers Association and the federal government’s recommendations on Truth and Reconciliation and Commission of Canada’s Calls for Action.
“An emphasis is being put on understanding Canada’s history that has been untaught for so many years so things like residential schools and oppression of the First Nation people,” she explained.
Skalski and the group help school representatives from teachers, support staff members, and administrators understand what the new direction would look like in a classroom setting.
The group members are teaching the community as well as learning themselves. Eighteen members including Skalski are attending a one-year master’s program at the University of Alberta called Deepening Our Relationship. The program is split between land experiences and classroom setting.
Skalski said the program, has helped her build a foundational understanding of First Nations culture from understanding ceremonies and having more compassion around culture and inanimate objects – things she has not known before.
The group of 18 attends university thanks to a Building Collaboration and Capacity in Education grant and Parkland School Division who is paying a portion as well.
At the gatherings, the group members and community members learn to ‘Be Together.’ Guest speakers at the once a month meetings include local Elders from the Tri-Region as well as University of Alberta professors.
The meetings are held last Tuesday of every month between 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at PSD division office in Stony Plain.
The group comes together in a sharing circle as well as explores the outdoors. For example, back in October, the session was at Forest Green School where they learned about the school’s medicine healing garden.
For more information contact the Parkland School Division at 780-963-4010.
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