Similkameen Elementary Secondary School is breaking new ground this year with the introduction of a course that will introduce students to history from a First Nations perspective.
SESS is the first school in District 53 to offer a history course that is based on First Nations’ point of view.
The program is offered to students in lieu of Social Studies 11, and will be largely project based, with class activity involving field trips and speakers coming into the school from the Lower Similkameen Indian Band. The course follows a provincial cirriculum and has a final exam. Twenty-five students are enrolled in the course this year.
The new course complements the Okanagan Language course that is now in its second year at SESS.
“Twenty-five per cent of the students in this school have aboriginal ancestry,” explained SESS Principal Marcus Toneato. “To not have something related to their culture in the school cirriculum would not be representing that group, so these programs are important.
Aboriginal programs have come a long way at SESS – three years ago there wasn’t a single program offered.”
The Okanagan Language program is showing increased popularity amongst the student body this year as enrolment numbers are up from eight last year to 20 this year. The program is offered to high school students from grades eight to 12, and teaches the basics of the Okanagan language. Amber Eustache, a First Nations instructor who is fluent in the Paul Creek language, teaches the course.
First Nations Studies 12 focusses on the diversity, depth and integrity of the cultures of B.C. aboriginal people. Designed to introduce authentic aboriginal content into the curriculum with the support of aboriginal people, the course provides an opportunity for B.C. students to acquire knowledge and understanding of the traditions, history and present realities of First Nations peoples, as well as a chance to consider future challenges and opportunities. Having aboriginal content in the school curriculum can also contribute to an enlightened discussion of aboriginal issues as well as giving aboriginal students a sense of place and belonging in the public school system.