Two grade 5 students holding up the drums they made Grade 5 Drum-making - 2024

Empowering Indigenous Voices: Drum-Making Supports Transition to Middle School

March 14, 2024

The Abbotsford School District's Indigenous Education Department, under the guidance of the Indigenous Education Council (IEC) and in collaboration with Semá:th First Nation, Mathxwí First Nation, and the Fraser Valley Métis Association, is proud to continue a district-wide initiative to support Grade 5 Indigenous students as they transition to middle school. This initiative aligns with the district’s Strategic Plan, which emphasizes fostering a sense of belonging and connection among students and promoting cultural understanding and respect.

Led by drum maker Darren Charlie (Qwetoselten) from the Sts’ailes Indian Band, students engage in a cultural journey through drum making. Over six days in February, students from each feeder school gathered to learn the traditional techniques of creating a drum at the Mamele'awt Indigenous Education Centre. This hands-on experience aims to empower students by helping them find their voice, connect with their culture, and learn the importance of respect - all crucial aspects as they enter middle school.

"I appreciate the connections students strengthen when they come together to make drums,” said Allison Gardner, District Vice Principal of Indigenous Education. “They connect individually with an adult who supports them, stringing the drum; other Grade 5 Indigenous students with whom they will soon be in middle school; and students connect with identity and culture. This is a special opportunity for students to find their own voice and look ahead with excitement about a positive future in middle school."

In April, all Grade 5 teachers will share "The Honour Drum" by Cheryl Bear with their classes, providing an opportunity for all students to learn about the drum as the "heartbeat of the earth" and the significance of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

By providing Grade 5 Indigenous students with a meaningful transition experience that connects them to their culture and peers, the program supports the district's commitment to creating inclusive, supportive, and culturally responsive learning environments. The continued success of this initiative demonstrates the district's dedication to honouring and integrating Indigenous perspectives and teachings, ultimately contributing to the overall well-being and academic success of Indigenous students.