This project grant assisted 400 children from Signal Hill Elementary School in Pemberton to learn local traditional First Nations hand drumming, singing and dancing. The grant provided funding to hire two First Nations instructors, Gerald Gabriel and Martin Thevarge from N'Quatqua, who lead the children in a drum and dance circle. Drumming and dancing are a part of a value system that has deep roots in the land, culture and language of the local First Nations communities. The drum is the heartbeat of the land and the dancers feet move in rhythm to that beat.
Project Heartsong is unique because it involved local traditional artists who are also mentors and cultural leaders in the community. Traditionally, this is how children learn, by listening and sharing with the Elders. It is crucial that institutions like schools form bridges and alliances with local cultural educators/mentors so that we make a special effort to achieve balance and integration. Michelle Beauregard, First Nations Literacy and Cultural Support Worker at Signal Hill Elementary School commented, “The knowledge of our diversity makes us stronger as a community and we must ensure that each student has a way of expressing their own unique voice. By promoting local content we ensure the security and well-being of our students.”
Project Heartstrong received a grant from the Jill Ackhurst Social Action Fund.
Martin Thevarge and Gerald Gabriel lead students in a drumming procession. Photo courtesy Michelle Beauregard, Signal Hill Elementary School