A group of about 40 of the youngest children from Alex Hope Elementary visited a First Nations art exhibit at Langley Centennial Museum during Aboriginal Day Thursday.
Much to the delight of Kwantlen First Nation elder Natch Antone, who was wearing some of his cultural regalia, the young children were surprisingly attentive when he spoke.
He told them how the art hanging on the walls around them, the drum he held, the clothing he wore, and especially the words he spoke were all ways his people use to keep their heritage alive, and pass on their culture to future generations.
It’s not a history that people can expect to read in textbooks, see on television, or find on the Internet, he said. But it’s a story that must be told by the Kwantlen people, and he thanked the children for giving him an opportunity to share a bit of that with them during the private function.
“This is really the teachings of the Kwantlen First Nations people,” Antone said of all that he and others were sharing during the hour-long presentation.
But he encouraged the kids to go home and listen to the stories of their grandparents, mothers and fathers, and even aunts and uncles, tasking them with keeping their family’s heritage alive.
“Go home today, and listen… That’s your story,” said Antone (his traditional name being Lekeyten).
He and other guests, including retired preschool teacher and storyteller Josette Dandurnad, were moved when the youngsters stood around a handpainted cedar canoe in the middle of the art exhbiition, and sang a First Nations honour song.
Thursday was Aboriginal Day across the country, and Luke Dandurand – an aboriginal support worker in three local elementary schools – invited two classes of kindergarteners from Alex Hope to visit the museum’s current exhibition called Here and Now: Contemporary Kwantlen First Nations Art.
He explained that the children have been learning bits about the local First Nation’s culture throughout the year, and had been practising the song every week in preparation for Thursday’s gathering.
“We thought it would be a great time to do it in public,” Dandurand said of the children singing the song for the first time outside of the classroom.
He organized the visit to the museum, and the subsequent picnic lunch near the banks of the Fraser River, to coincide with Aboriginal Day.