||Volume 15, Number 5, April 2003 |
Aboriginal career day
by Jennifer Auld
The idea for an aboriginal career day in Zeballos, began when I attended a workshop hosted by the First Nations PSA in Harrison Hot Springs. Langley teacher Carel McDonald, presented a workshop on teaching Aboriginal issues using the media. She mentioned the career fair she had organized at her school. As social justice chair of my district, I was searching for a focus that would make a difference. The idea of honouring the talents and education of Canada’s Aboriginal people sounded fabulous for our remote, mostly First Nations community, but funding was the obstacle.
Victoria Wells, elected member of council of the Ehattesaht First Nations (local to Zeballos) helped to overcome that obstacle when she mentioned a grant that is available. Not knowing how to start, I picked up the phone and called Carel McDonald in Langley and asked for her list of contacts. She did not give me a list of names and numbers; instead she said, "how about I drive to Zeballos and bring them all to you." After we obtained other funding from corporate grants, the school district, and local First Nations, the planning got into full swing.
McDonald corralled another Langley teacher, of Cree descent, Caroline Paulicelli, her daughter, BCIT student Tera MacDonald, Cree artist Jerry Whitehead, Boston Barr cultural presenter David Florence, and management consultant Matt Vickers. Victoria Wells invited many local First Nations presenters, and I cornered the rest. The career week was presented to students, most of whom are Nuu-Chah-Nulth, from March 10 to 12.
The week began with classroom workshops where teachers signed up for presenters for specific times and students were awed by the variety of backgrounds, talents, abilities, and activities our guests presented. A mural was created by Jerry Whitehead with his trademark Pow Wow dancers and contributions by students. Guests and organizers were honoured and fed at a potluck dinner with many traditional foods brought by local residents.
Twenty-five presenters came for the final day of celebration and learning. It began with Ehattesaht Hereditary Chief Kelly John opening, keynote by Matt Vickers, and sessions by local and out-of-town guests for the 100 students from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Adult guests and parents joined us, many of whom had never been in the school. The day ended with Vernon Price, storyteller from Quadra Island, dressing up students and teachers in regalia.
The nuts and bolts of organizing an Aboriginal Career Day come down to finding grants, submitting proposals, finding presenters, and organizing the schedule. The right tools are available from B.C. teachers. Carel MacDonald provided me with numerous samples from proposals to daily plans, schedules, and leave forms. Simply filling in the blanks made the task easy. Supplementary to those samples are now a few of my own. I encourage you, especially if you have First Nations students, to help dismantle stereotyping of aboriginal people by enriching students’ contacts with Aboriginal people. An Aboriginal Career Day or week is just such a forum.
Jennifer Auld teaches at Zeballos Elementary Secondary School, Zeballos.